JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri's attorney general said Monday that he's weighing whether to appoint a special investigator to check into use of the secretive Confide messaging app by several senior members of Gov. Eric Greitens' office.
Attorney General Josh Hawley, a Republican, was asked by Democratic state Sen. Scott Sifton of the St. Louis area to investigate after The Kansas City Star reported last week that it determined Greitens and some of his staff have Confide accounts connected to their personal cellphones. The app deletes messages and prevents recipients from saving, forwarding, printing or taking screenshots of messages.
Hawley said at a news conference Monday that he can't directly investigate Greitens because he's defending the Republican governor's office in other legal cases, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported . But Hawley could appoint a special investigator, and he said he's looking at case law to determine whether to do so.
"This is another nothing story that's come from a liberal media outlet that is just desperate for salacious headlines," said Greitens, referring to The Star's story during his own press conference Monday.
Greitens spokesman Parker Briden previously told The Star, "I don't believe anyone has (Confide) downloaded on a state-issued device."
Greitens and his office have not disputed information reported by The Star.
Message-encrypting apps such as Confide have gained popularity, particularly in some political circles after Hillary Clinton's campaign was hacked last year, the website Axios reported. The Washington Post reported the app has also been used by White House staffers worried about being accused of leaking information to the media.
Hawley, who is running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, said his office's policy and legal opinion is that text messages sent or received by state employees about state business fall under Missouri's open records law. But he added that the "legal complexities are significant" and promised an update soon.
It's unclear if governor's office staffers are using the app for official business, campaign work or personal communication.