WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump signed off on press secretary Sean Spicer’s decision to check aides’ cell phones to make certain they weren’t communicating with reporters by text message or through encrypted apps, multiple sources confirmed to CNN on Monday.
The decision sent a signal across the administration that Trump is furious at leaks from inside the White House. The sources also said the president gave his blessing before Spicer blocked reporters from the briefing last Friday.
When reached by CNN, Spicer denied that Trump was involved in either decision.
“(Trump) did not sign off or even know what I did. That is not accurate,” he said, later adding, “I don’t believe he even knew there was a gaggle and in no way was it discussed with him or any other staffer.”
On Friday, CNN and other news outlets were blocked from attending an off-camera White House press briefing that other reporters were hand-picked to attend.
And Politico reported on Sunday that Spicer was cracking down on leaks coming out of the White House, where at one point staffers were asked to dump their phones on a table for a “phone check.”
The sources also told CNN that Trump and his top advisers also knew of the contacts Spicer and others made to intelligence chairmen and other government officials, hoping to push back on news accounts of Russian links.
The sources added that Spicer is on higher standing inside the West Wing than he has been in earlier weeks. He has been eager to prove his loyalty but has also not pushed back on carrying out any orders or requests from the Oval Office.
One person close to the situation described Spicer as the “enforcer.”