In a statement on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that personal cellphones will no longer be allowed in the West Wing.
“The security and integrity of the technology systems at the White House is a top priority for the Trump administration and therefore the use of all personal devices for both guests and staff will no longer be allowed in the West Wing. Staff will be able to conduct business on their government-issued devices and continue working hard on behalf of the American people,” Sanders said in a statement on the new policy.
Rumors of a potential ban have circulated for months. “One official said that there are too many devices connected to the campus wireless network and that personal phones aren’t as secure as those issued by the federal government,” sources told Bloomberg in November. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is widely viewed as a proponent of the move.
In February, CNN reported that then Press Secretary Sean Spicer forced his own staff to undergo surprise “checks” on their personal devices to check for secret communications with the press or other potential leaks. “Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as ‘an emergency meeting,’ staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a ‘phone check,’ to prove they had nothing to hide,” Politico reported at the time.
While the Trump administration is trying to spin the new “no personal device” policy as a security issue, the fact of reporter Michael Wolff’s bombshell White House exposé release this week certainly calls that into doubt. The administration has railed against leaks and leakers since its earliest days and the personal device ban appears to a belated, and likely doomed, effort to control the messaging that spills out of a deeply chaotic presidency.