The White House is conducting sweeps to collect personal devices in order to cut down on leaks from West Wing staffers, CNN reported on Tuesday.
After toying with the idea for months, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly imposed a ban on personal cell phones in the West Wing in January.
Despite being dubbed as a move for national security reasons, White House staffers believed that it was aimed more to cut down on contacts with reporters on the everyday business inside the White House.
Last week, news leaked that Kelly Sadler, special assistant to the president for message strategy, reportedly mocked Sen. John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona who’s battling an aggressive form of brain cancer.
Two unnamed sources told The Hill that Sadler said McCain’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee, Gina Haspel, „doesn’t matter” because „he’s dying anyway.”
Senior White House officials, most notably press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, seemed more frustrated that Sadler’s remark leaked than the offensive nature of her comment, which many lawmakers and political pundits denounced.
„I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting,” Sanders told staffers during a meeting on Friday, Axios reported, citing five people who were in the room.
Most staffers have obliged to the device ban despite their frustrations with it, sources told CNN.
Now, West Wing staffers either leave their phones in their cars or drop them off in lockers as they enter the building, leaving them locked up until they go home at the end of the day.
The sweeps are thus conducted in order to find phones, smartwatches, or other personal devices that made it into the West Wing undetected.
According to CNN, men in suits „carrying large handheld devices” walk through the West Wing to find contraband personal devices. If they find a phone, the men will have the culprit go lock it up.
If staffers violate the policy, they could face „disciplinary action,” though it’s unclear what exactly that exactly that would entail. Other federal employees who bring their devices in could be banned from the White House.
„Violations of this policy by EOP staff are security incidents that may indicate knowing, willful, or negligent conduct in violation of security policy and may therefore result in disciplinary action and, for other Federal employees and visitors, may include being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex,” Kelly wrote in a staff memo outlining the policy, according to ABC News.
The White House grounds, press briefing room, and White House press corps offices are exempt from the ban.