The Trump administration, despite the president’s continued assertions to the contrary, has hit more than a few snags in the just over a year that it has been in power. For instance, the Trump administration has set a record for the highest senior staff turnover rate of a modern presidency, and going into the second year, the senior staff turnover hasn’t exactly slowed down. Among the most recent departures are the president’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
These aren’t the only problems facing the White House, however. There’s also a problem with security — as evidenced by the fact that a White House staffer wrote the password for their encrypted email account on official White House stationery and then left it at a bus stop near the residence of the nation’s commander-in-chief.
The staffer was Ryan P. McAvoy, listed last July by Quartz as a “Staff Assistant” in the Trump administration. The piece of White House stationery that he left at a bus stop featured his ProtonMail address and passwords, which The Intercept confirmed were authentic.
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) March 17, 2018
McAvoy did not respond to requests for comment.
ProtonMail is an encrypted email service, which could raise questions for some as to why a White House staffer would feel the need to use such a service. The address and passwords being revealed come just days after House Democrats renewed their calls for scrutiny of the usage of encrypted messaging apps by members of the Trump team in the face of Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, moving to end that body’s Russia investigation.
To the president’s glee, Republicans on that committee announced recently that they had concluded the interview portion of their investigation and would be moving ahead with the creation of a final report, releasing preliminary findings that completely cleared the president in the meantime.
The president issued a belligerent all caps Twitter message after House Republicans revealed their determination, writing:
‘THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.’
Even though House Republicans on the committee assert that the president is clear, Democrats on the committee have made their belief otherwise evident.
In a memo released Wednesday describing the lines of inquiry they still believe to be open, House Democrats called for “all messaging applications that Mr. [Jared] Kushner used during the campaign as well as the presidential transition, including but not limited to SMS, iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Signal, Slack, Instagram, and Snapchat” to be revealed.
Although the Democrats floated the idea of issuing subpoenas to interests like WhatsApp, somewhat like ProtonMail, the Facebook-owned messaging service offers end-to-end encryption, which would likely make most message data meaningless to any third party.
The issues with and concern over the Trump team’s usage of technology come after the president has spent considerable time going after Hillary Clinton for her own supposedly corrupt usage of a private email server while in government office, continuing those attacks even after she was cleared. Ironically, multiple Trump officials have also been found to have used private emails in office.
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