An exclusive report from The New York Times today reveals that China and Russia are listening in on calls made from President Trump‘s personal cellphone, allowing access to information that helps them influence American foreign policy.
Trump has been repeatedly warned by White House staff that his three personal phones are not secure, but as the Times reported, he refuses to hand them over and continues to use them to chat with personal friends.
China reportedly has a list of people who Trump talks to the most and targets them with messaging designed to curry their favor, while Russia eavesdrops just to get insight into White House strategy.
From The New York Times:
The officials said they have also determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how Mr. Trump thinks, what arguments tend to sway him and to whom he is inclined to listen — to keep a trade war with the United States from escalating further. In what amounts to a marriage of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have pieced together a list of the people with whom Mr. Trump regularly speaks in hopes of using them to influence the president, the officials said.
Among those on the list are Stephen A. Schwarzman, the Blackstone Group chief executive who has endowed a master’s program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Steve Wynn, the former Las Vegas casino magnate who used to own a lucrative property in Macau.
The Chinese have identified friends of both men and others among the president’s regulars, and are now relying on Chinese businessmen and others with ties to Beijing to feed arguments to the friends of the Trump friends. The strategy is that those people will pass on what they are hearing, and that Beijing’s views will eventually be delivered to the president by trusted voices, the officials said. They added that the Trump friends were most likely unaware of any Chinese effort.
According to the Times’ report, out of the three personal phones used by Trump, two have been updated to be made more secure by the National Security Agency, but the remaining one is about as secure as any regular cellphone.
Complaining about the inconvenience, Trump refuses to swap out his official phones every 30-days like he’s supposed to.
White House staff members are supposed to set up the new phones exactly like the old ones, but the new iPhones cannot be restored from backups of his old phones because doing so would transfer over any malware.
Either way, the Russians and the Chinese are getting a front-row seat to Trump’s personal conversations.
Featured image via Gage Skidmore (Flickr)