Gowdy: White House deleted text, social media apps from official phones

White House staff no longer have text or social media messaging apps on their official phones because of records management headaches, according to a letter from a key House overseer.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) / Photo: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
 

House Oversight panel chief Trey Gowdy said in a letter that the White House deleted chat and social apps from government phones.

White House officials no longer have text or social media messaging apps on their official phones because of records management headaches, according to a letter from a key House oversight official.

The news came in an account of an Oct. 18 staff briefing on the administration's records management practices from three officials in the White House Counsel's office. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, recapped the meeting in an Oct. 20 letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn.

The White House officials, Gowdy said, explained "how text messaging capabilities have been removed from official devices because there are not sufficient technology solutions to capture this information in accordance with the [Presidential Records Act]," and that "similar measures have been taken for social media applications."

A request for the White House to confirm this account and detail the applications that have been removed was not immediately answered.

It's not clear if official White House phones ever supported such apps. The letter explained that the current administration is using the same IT infrastructure as the Obama White House and that the Trump team "is working to accommodate the explosion of electronic data that must be captured."

Press reports have suggested that White House staffers covered by the PRA have used encrypted chat applications like Signal, Whisper and Confide, some of which are expressly designed to delete messages after they are read.  Those apps are the subject of a lawsuit against the Trump administration filed by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in June.

"I was told months ago that the White House-issued phones do not permit the use of apps; I don't know if this is a holdover from the previous administration, but I question the implication it was done specifically by this administration to address concerns raised by its compliance with the PRA," said CREW's Anne Weismann in an email to FCW. "But the main point is that they do all have personal phones.  Given the reports about [White House] staffers text messaging and using apps like Confide and Signal, this seems to confirm that staff are using their own personal phones." 

The Hill briefing was held to update committee staffs from both sides of the aisle on the use (and possible abuse) of private email and other messaging accounts to conduct official business.

Gowdy's letter is apparently in answer to a letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), which offered a readout of the same meeting but with a different emphasis. The letter from Cummings stressed that some officials, by the White House's own account, were not in compliance with the requirement to move official emails from private to official accounts within the 20-day limit required by the PRA.

Gowdy's letter merely noted that "certain allegations of recordkeeping noncompliance are under review," adding, "we appreciate your commitment to share the findings of the internal review as soon as practicable."

Separately, Gowdy informed the heads of 16 agencies that they were partially or completely non-compliant with a request for information about the use of private email accounts, text messaging and other phone-based chat apps to conduct official business.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.