President Donald Trump is known to call friends and advisors late at night, but it turns out that when he does, someone else may be listening too. According to a new report from the New York Times, American intelligence suggests that Chinese and Russian spies are “often listening” to Trump’s calls — and may well be using that information to figure out how best to work with the president when it comes to administration policies.
It’s well-known that the President is advised to steer clear of using everyday Android or iPhone devices, and aides have reportedly warned Trump against using his iPhone on multiple occasions. Despite the fact that Trump has reportedly given in to pressure and uses his secure landline more often these days, he still refuses to give up his iPhone — and could be using it to discuss classified information. According to the report, Trump has three phones — two with limited functionality, aimed at preventing eavesdropping, and one iPhone that’s like any other iPhone out there.
The report notes that American spy agencies have learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on Trump’s phone calls from human sources inside foreign government agencies. Agencies have also said that they’ve determined what China is hoping to learn by listening in on these calls: Things like who he generally listens to, what kinds of arguments sway his opinion, and more. It seems as though the Chinese have put together a list of individuals with influence over Trump in the hopes of eventually being able to use them. The Chinese government is also relying on Chinese businessmen to feed arguments to Trump’s trusted friends with the hopes that those arguments will eventually be delivered to Trump by people he trusts. It’s not currently believed that Russian spies are using the same methods given Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
China’s methods of influencing the president aren’t new. For decades, officials have attempted to sway the president’s opinions by creating an informal network of businesspeople and academics who can be fed ideas and then bring them to the White House. What’s new, however, is that officials previously weren’t able to rely on eavesdropping on the president’s phone calls.
Following the New York Times story, Trump tweeted that he “only [uses] government phones,” and that he only seldom uses government cell phones. He then clarified in a follow-up tweet that he “rarely” uses a cell phone, and that when he does, it’s a government-issued phone. Ironically enough, both tweets were sent from an iPhone.
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