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The White House has become a “hostile environment,” with staffers at all levels concerned that they are being spied on by fellow staffers and government bureaucrats, according to a Wednesday Politico report.
Almost a dozen White House staffers and federal agency employees told Politico that they are increasingly fearful of being exposed, embarrassed, or undermined by a “deep state” of career military and intelligence officials opposed to President Donald Trump’s agenda or even by other Trump appointees and loyalists seeking influence.
“People are scared,” a senior administration aide told Politico, adding that the White House had become “a pretty hostile environment to work in.”
Aides are using encryption apps on their personal devices, turning off government-issued cell phones and putting them in drawers when they get home from work, refusing to speak up during meetings, and thinking twice about what they write and say on the phone.
“I’m paranoid,” a Trump aide told Politico. “Anything significant seems to be on the front page the next day.”
The fear of being surveilled-and of subsequent leaks to the press-stems from the highest levels of the White House and has intensified since Trump tweeted unsubstantiated claims that president Barack Obama wire tapped his phones in the run up to the election.
Last month, White House press secretary Sean Spicer instituted phone checks of his own staff in an attempt to identify internal leakers. Spicer has since said that the phone checks were a one-off and are not administration policy.
But much of the suspicion is directed towards the intelligence agencies, who Trump staffers believe are attempting to bring down appointees they don’t like with damaging leaks. Some blame the Central Intelligence Agency for reports concerning National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with the Russian ambassador, which helped lead to his resignation last month.
There is also a widespread belief among Trump officials that career agency employees loyal to Obama are working to undermine the administration.
“I wouldn’t call it paranoia under the circumstances,” a Republican, who uses encryption when talking with administration officials, told Politico. “It’s not paranoia if people really are out to get you, and everybody actually is out to get everyone else.”