In what is perhaps a perfect encapsulation of the broken state of American politics as that institution exists under President Trump, his administration is approaching its second week of defending an aide's ghoulish comments about a senator's brain cancer prognosis by casting its disclosure as a sign of insufficient workplace camaraderie. "If you aren't able, in internal meetings, to speak your mind or convey thoughts or say anything that you feel without feeling like your colleagues will betray you," said White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah on Monday, "that creates a very difficult work environment."
In an effort to stymie the geyser of leaks bubbling up from the corridors of the West Wing and into the pages of the New York Times, White House chief of staff John Kelly banned personal cell phones late last year, and according to CNN, he has begun enforcing it using the same tool employed by world-weary administrators everywhere to discipline unruly, disobedient schoolchildren: hall monitors. (CNN's sources for this information? Why, "four White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity," of course!)
Sweeps are carried out to track down personal devices that have made it past the lobby and into the building. According to sources who are familiar with the sweeps, men dressed in suits and carrying large handheld devices have been seen roaming the halls of the West Wing, moving from room to room, scouring the place for devices that aren't government-issued. If one is detected, one of the men will ask those in the room if someone forgot to put their phone away.
But if no one says they have a phone, the men begin searching the room.
In an office full of people charged with making some of the most important day-to-day decisions about the future of this country, the people who work there trust each other so little that they've arranged for a phalanx of glorified TSA officers to wander the hallways and ensure that no one can get in their Tindr swipes from the safety of their own desks. The report also notes that while staffers stash their phones in key-operated day lockers, they are still allowed to check their messages throughout the day. In other words, the net effect of Kelly's brilliant anti-leaking crackdown is that in order to text Maggie Haberman urgent updates about the president's latest racist temper tantrum during normal business hours, employees now have to take a short walk first. I, for one, am shocked that this plan hasn't worked out as hoped!
The administration's inability to prevent its members from talking to the press has nothing to do with information security protocols. Because so many Republican policy types remain unwilling to associate themselves with this White House, Donald Trump has been forced to fill the chairs around him with the dregs of the MAGAsphere, an assortment of castoffs, pariahs, and slovenly white nationalist bloggers who earned their boss' attention by turning in one or more shouty Fox News talking heads. These people are relentless self-promoters whose loyalty lies with their private agendas and their checking accounts—not the president or the country, and certainly not to each other. Their West Wing jobs are temporary inconveniences that guarantee a comfortable professional afterlife of lucrative book deals, guest lecture gigs, and Emmy invitations. If helping a reporter break a story gets them one step closer to that goal, a couple of suits waving metal detectors isn't going to stop them.