On Wednesday morning at 9am local time, a county judge in Missouri is set to hold a court hearing by phone in what is believed to be the first state-level lawsuit involving the use of an ephemeral messaging app. Lawyers in an ongoing lawsuit are battling out whether now-former Governor Eric Greitens’ use of Confide ran afoul of state transparency laws.
Confide, like Signal and other popular encrypted-messaging apps, auto-deletes messages after a certain period of time, making automated record-keeping of those messages very difficult, if not impossible.
Two days ago, Mark Pedroli filed a new motion, asking Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem to force the governor’s office and the custodian of records to formally comply with his own order to disclose numerous details, including how many of the then-governor’s staff used the Confide app.
Prior to leaving office as of June 1 at 5pm as a result of a sex scandal and threatened impeachment, lawyers representing Greitens said that 16 members of his staff, including Greitens and four former staffers, had Confide accounts. This comprises more than half of the employees in the governor’s office, according to the . However, these figures, according to Pedroli, did not come with adequate declarations.
“The information provided was not affirmed, under oath, pursuant to the Court Order, therefore Defendants are currently in violation of the Order, continuing a long tradition of stonewalling, evasion and partial compliance,” Pedroli wrote. “Unverified and unaffirmed answers are not compliant and perpetuate delay. Defendants have long employed delay tactics and refused to answer the most clear and relevant questions about the use of Confide.”
Greitens, during his time in office, initially stonewalled public records requests to learn more about this back in January.
Both Confide and Signal were also reportedly used in the Trump White House before then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer banned them in February 2017, saying that the apps likely were not compatible with the Presidential Records Act.
Despite the fact that Greitens is now gone, it doesn’t substantially change the nature of the case, Pedroli told Ars. “The lawsuit was filed to find out whether or not Eric Greitens and others destroyed original communications that they should have retained,” he said. “We don’t have the answer to that. We haven’t taken the testimony, we haven’t taken the depositions.”
Ultimately, Pedroli explained, he wants Greitens’ and his staff’s messages that were transmitted through Confide, if they are obtainable somehow, to be made public as a way to better understand whether Greitens was illicitly communicating with an “outside 501c(4).”
Greitens’ new attorney, Robert Thompson, did not respond to Ars’ repeated requests for comment.