Government & Politics

Amid lawsuit, inquiry, Greitens’ staffers appear to have deleted secret texting app

Members of Gov. Eric Greitens’ staff appear to have deleted a secret text messaging app that sparked a lawsuit and an investigation by the attorney general’s office.

The app, called Confide, allows someone to send a text message that automatically erases after it is read. It also prevents someone from saving, forwarding, printing or taking a screenshot of the text.

The Star revealed in December that the governor and most of his staff had Confide accounts connected to their personal cell phones. The revelation set off alarms for government transparency advocates, who worried it could be used to undermine Missouri’s open records laws.

Attorney General Josh Hawley launched an investigation into whether the governor’s office was illegally destroying public records by using Confide. And two St. Louis County attorneys filed a lawsuit in Demember arguing use of Confide by Greitens and his staff constituted an ongoing conspiracy to violate Missouri’s open records laws.

A Cole County judge is scheduled to hear arguments Friday afternoon over whether to issue a temporary injunction blocking employees of the governor’s office from using Confide.

When The Star first reported on Greitens’ use of Confide, his chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, director of cabinet affairs, legislative director, deputy director of legislative affairs, policy adviser and press secretary all had accounts connected to their personal cell phones.

As of Thursday afternoon, those accounts appear to have been deleted. They are no longer listed on the app as being connected to the staff members’ phone numbers.

It’s unclear when the accounts vanished.

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Greitens still has an account, as do Austin Chambers, who runs the governor’s political nonprofit, and Jimmy Soni, the governor’s former communications adviser who remains on Greitens’ campaign payroll.

Two of the governor’s appointees to state boards also have Confide accounts.

Eddy Justice, a Republican from Poplar Bluff whom Greitens appointed to the State Board of Education in July, said he set up Confide on his phone “a couple months ago” out of curiosity. He insists he’s never used it for anything official or in any way related to his position on the school board.

Alan Simpson, a Kansas City attorney whom Greitens appointed to the Missouri House Development Commission in November, said he’s had a Confide account for at least six months.

“I’ve never used it to interact with anyone in the governor’s office for anything official,” Simpson said.

Jason Hancock: 573-634-3565, @J_Hancock