Report: No laws broken by Greitens staff using secretive app

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Thursday report from Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley's office says it doesn't appear that fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens' staff violated records laws while using a secretive messaging app.

According to the report, the attorney general "has not identified any basis" to conclude that Greitens' office broke state law by using the Confide app, although the office also discouraged use of the app to discuss public business.

Hawley launched the review last year after the Kansas City Star reported that Greitens and some of his staff had accounts with the Confide app, which deletes messages and prevents recipients from saving, forwarding, printing or taking screenshots of messages. That had sparked concern among some government-transparency advocates that it could be used to undermine open records laws.

Greitens' office, which released the report instead of Hawley, lauded the attorney general's findings. The report came out the same day that Hawley's office confirmed it had opened an inquiry into The Mission Continues, a veterans charity that Greitens founded.

"This thorough report recognizes that we have gone above and beyond what the law requires in the interest of transparency," Greitens' spokesman Parker Briden said in a statement.

Five governor's office staffers told the attorney general's office that they discussed government-related business using the app, according to the report. But the staffers said they only messaged about "logistics and scheduling," such as planning meetings.

The attorney general's office concluded that state law doesn't require those types of messages to be retained because they were "exclusively non-substantive."

While the attorney general's office reviewers wrote that the governor's staffers appeared credible, the report also says "the nature of Confide necessarily means that no documentary evidence exists to corroborate (or contradict) this testimony."

The office also cautioned against using Confide.

"While the available evidence in this case indicates that messages transmitted over Confide constituted 'transitory' communications that need not be retained, it is conceivable that some text messages do fall within record series that require retention," the report said. "If a public employee were to receive such a communication via Confide, she would be unable to retain that communication as required by Missouri law."

There's still a lawsuit pending against Greitens over use of the app. The plaintiff's attorney, Mark Pedroli, told The Associated Press that compared to Hawley's review, the lawsuit would be "far more comprehensive, will have subpoena power and the power to question people under oath, and we believe the court will support us in this endeavor."

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