White House chief of staff John Kelly has reportedly deployed "men in suits" to scan the West Wing for personal cellphones, which he banned in what staffers said is an attempt to stop leaks.
What: According to a CNN report Tuesday, the men carry large handheld devices and systematically canvass the White House offices for the phones. If a contraband phone is detected, the report said, the men ask those in the room to hand it over; if no one confesses, the men search the room.
Officials are supposed to leave their phones in their car or deposit them in lockers that have been installed at West Wing entrances, according to the report. Sources said staffers can be found huddled around the lockers during the day to check their missed messages.
The phone ban has been publicly defended as a national security measure, but a number of staffers told CNN that it seems to be about leaks to reporters.
Why: President Donald Trump's White House has repeatedly threatened to crack down on leakers. After reports last week of a White House aide's bad joke about Sen. John McCain of Arizona's declining health, Trump deemed them "traitors and cowards" and pledged to "find out who they are."
The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
Despite the semi-authoritarian language, and the menacing image of men in suits patrolling the White House, the leaks have continued, as evidenced by the CNN story and an Axios post Sunday in which leakers explain why they leak to the press.
Jonah Goldberg wrote for the conservative National Review Saturday that the leaks are a perverse result of Trump's demand for loyalty. But he said anyone who sees Trump as an "authoritarian tyrant" in the mold of Hitler or Stalin, "the fact that his administration has been plagued by leaks and anonymous sources talking out of school should be oddly reassuring."