According to a new report on Thursday, Oct. 25, President Donald Trump's personal phone calls may not be private. The New York Times details that per U.S. intelligence, the president still uses an unsecured iPhone to call personal contacts, like friends, advisors, and confidants. As a result, the practice may be inviting an audience of officials from China and Russia to listen in. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comments on these reports but had not heard back at the time of publication.
Per the report, the president often calls his personal contacts to vent and seek advice on matters, including presidential ones. Aides, according to the Times, have repeatedly warned him that Russians could be listening in on his iPhone calls and urged him to used the secured White House landline instead, but the president often ignores this advice and has reportedly continued using his own personal cell phones. As such, the aides are reportedly left to "hope" that the president, in the process, is not giving away loads of confidential or compromising information about the country.
In tweets on Thursday, the president rejected the report as false, saying,
The so-called experts on Trump over at the New York Times wrote a long and boring article on my cellphone usage that is so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it. I only use Government Phones, and have only one seldom used government cell phone. Story is soooo wrong!
Despite saying he had no time to dispute the story, he followed up just a few hours later with a second tweet defending himself. "I rarely use a cellphone, & when I do it's government authorized," he reiterated on Thursday. "I like Hard Lines. Just more made up Fake News!"
A Chinese foreign ministry official denied the reports that they eavesdrop on the president's calls, according to Politico. They suggested instead that Trump switch to a Huawei brand phone, though the U.S. and Australia have reportedly warned their government officials against using those phones due to security risks given Huawei's connections to the Chinese government.
China, per the Times, was listening in with an eye toward how to reach the president through intermediaries, taking note of his regular contacts who could be used to lobby on behalf of the Chinese government to ease trade restrictions.
As a possible explanation as to why the president reportedly continues to use his own phone, Times reporter Maggie Haberman expanded on the issue, saying that it may be an attempt to sidestep Chief of Staff John Kelly's practice of screening the president's calls, as confirmed by multiple of his aides. The White House did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.
This builds off a January 2018 report describing Trump's routine in the White House, which claimed that Kelly had begun controlling who got to access the president by phone. The CNN report went on to say that that practice had apparently annoyed Trump, who, it added, "spent time phoning aides, allies and friends" to ask them how they thought the controversy over his reported "sh**hole countries" remark was playing out in the media. The president later denied using the reported language.
It's not clear how often the president reportedly speaks on a personal phone to his friends about matters of national security compared to, say, media optics or favorability. But whether he has yet to discuss top secret matters with those outside the White House, the possibility of foreign representatives listening in has caused concern about Trump's ongoing practice of reportedly using unsecured phones. Maybe next time, just email.