The president-elect's new smartphone is described as "secure" against cyberattacks, especially from foreign actors. But is he still using his old one?
Old habits die hard, apparently. According to the New York Times, Donald Trump is refusing to give up his “old, unsecured” Android phone in favor of a locked-down alternative. The president reportedly uses the handset to tweet via his personal Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump, and take phone calls, despite protests by his aides.
The news comes on the heels of a report last week that Donald Trump surrendered his longtime personal phone in favor of “a secure, encrypted device” approved by the Secret Service. According to the Associated Press and The New York Times, Trump gave up his smartphone — reportedly of the Samsung Galaxy variety — at the urging of aides.
In November, a New York Times report intimated that Trump was “worried” he wouldn’t be able to keep his Android phone once he got into the White House. The president has been described as “amazingly accessible,” often answering and returning calls from unknown numbers.
“Foreign leaders and diplomats took advantage of Trump’s accessibility in the days after his election,” the Associated Press reports. “Some called into Trump Tower hoping to be transferred to the president’s office. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull got Trump’s cellphone number from the golfer Greg Norman.”
What was believed to be Trump’s fettered access had some aides relieved. “The official rationale was security,” The New York Times reports, “[but] some of Mr. Trump’s new aides, who have been blindsided when a reporter, outside adviser, or office-seeker dialed the [then] president-elect directly, expressed relief.”
Trump isn’t the first president who’s butted heads with security agencies over the Oval Office’s strictures. President Brarack Obama, the nation’s first president to carry a cellphone, fought tooth and nail to use a Blackberry in office. But worries about cyberattacks, particularly by foreign governments, led the security agents to disable many of the phone’s internet and calling functions. Only a handful of people had the president’s phone number or email address, the Associated Press reports.
Obama later switched to an iPhone that allowed him to correspond by email with a limited group of people, surf the web, and read news, but lacked the ability to take photos, play music, or send text messages. Indeed, he relied on the White House’s internal switchboard rather than his cellphone to place and receive calls from senior government officials.
Obama used a separate phone to tweet — it was one of the only devices with access to the presidential Twitter feed due to hacking concerns. But the former president rarely tweeted himself, and never without coordinating with staff.
That’s in contrast to Trump, who retained almost exclusive control over his Twitter account in the weeks leading up to the inauguration. It’s been characterized as a “security disaster waiting to happen” — BuzzFeed reported that the social media account with 21 million followers has “no known special security protections,” and could lead to financial gain or geopolitical instability if exploited.
Article originally published in January. Updated on 01-25-2017 by Kyle Wiggers: Linked to New York Times report alleging that Trump hasn’t given up his unsecured Android phone.