These are not great times to be White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
Between some of the controversy he’s generated personally this week (namely, barring a number of major news outlets from his press gaggle), and the seemingly endless slew of controversies that have plagued the Donald Trump administration in its first month, all of which he has to answer for in his daily briefings, it’s no surprise that things are getting a little tense around his office these days.
Nonetheless, a report by Politico is generating disbelief, concern, and ridicule in nearly equal measure: Spicer reportedly held a surprise search of his staffers’ phones to try to ferret out leakers. A fact which, of course, immediately leaked.
According to Karni’s report, staffers were unexpectedly called into Spicer’s office last week, where they were ordered to leave their phones and mobile devices on a table to be searched to ensure “they had nothing to hide.” The process was reportedly overseen by White House lawyers, and Spicer followed it up with a warning that there would be “more problems” if any reports regarding the phone check leaked. In other words, there are now more problems.
Suffice to say, the denizens of social media are eating this story up. It tickles some popular perceptions of both the administration and of Spicer in particular—the overreach and the constant undermining by his own staff.
If the report is true and Spicer was already conducting surprise searches of his staffers’ phones, it’s clear enough that this latest leak—a leak on leaks—is likely to spike his blood pressure. The simple fact is that leaks are virtually impossible to stop entirely, unless Spicer or anyone similarly plagued by them would want to disband his staff and try to run the whole operation solo. And while there might be days where that seems like an appealing option for people currently in the halls of power, it’s not a realistic or conceivable solution.
President Trump, for his part, has also seemed vexed and obsessed with his administration’s sieve-like qualities in recent weeks. He’s previously insisted that leakers need to be brought to justice, calling their actions “a criminal act.” He’s also previously insisted that “the leaks are absolutely real,” but that “the news is fake.”
This is a sharp turn from his rhetoric during the presidential campaign, when he frequently cited the WikiLeaks release of thousands of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s personal emails.