As the Texas Rangers continue investigating Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office, Hidalgo has reversed course, after denying she used encrypted communications for county business.
Houston’s FOX 26 revealed that Hidalgo had previously denied using encrypted messaging platforms like Signal, WhatsApp, and Slack to communicate with staffers in May of 2022.
However, the latest search warrant from the Texas Rangers’ investigation into Hidalgo’s office says the office concealed the following evidence:
- WhatsApp and SMS messages showing Hidalgo and her staff believed that the majority of the Harris County Commissioners Court were going to vote against funding the Targeted Community Vaccine Outreach project and used Hidalgo’s emergency authorization powers to bypass the voting process and award $10,973,000 to Elevate Strategies, a one-woman firm with ties to Democrat operatives; and
- WhatsApp messages had been deleted after the initiation of the Grand Jury investigation.
FOX 26 asked Hidalgo to explain the discrepancy, per her previous statements in 2022.
“The question was whether I conduct county business on the Signal app. I do not conduct County business on the Signal app,” said Hidalgo.
“So you did not conduct county business on WhatsApp and other encrypted apps?” asked FOX 26.
“I already answered the question,” Hidalgo responded.
WhatsApp promotes itself as a secure messaging service. “With end-to-end encryption, your personal messages and calls are secured. Only you and the person you’re talking to can read or listen to them, and nobody in between, not even WhatsApp.”
Additionally, WhatsApp allows users to set up “disappearing messages,” which deletes your messages after a certain period of time expires.
As such, any records of county business done over WhatsApp—with or without disappearing messages set up—is unlikely to be able to be reviewed by local taxpayers or law enforcement.
Three county staffers in Hidalgo’s inner circle have been indicted in the bid-rigging scandal.