Donald Trump’s mobile phone use could be putting US national security at risk. Picture: AFP/NICHOLAS KAMM
Donald Trump’s mobile phone use could be putting US national security at risk. Picture: AFP/NICHOLAS KAMM

Foreign powers ‘bugging Trump’s calls’

CHINESE and Russian spies are believed to be eavesdropping on Donald Trump because of his refusal to give up his mobile phones.

The US President is known for his unorthodox methods of communication, including using his personal Twitter account to spread messages among Americans.

But his unwillingness to use the White House landline could mean the foreign powers are gaining insights into how best to manipulate Mr Trump, and affect his administration's policy.

Officials say Mr Trump is using a secure landline more, but refuses to give up his iPhones. Picture: AP/Alex Brandon)
Officials say Mr Trump is using a secure landline more, but refuses to give up his iPhones. Picture: AP/Alex Brandon)

American intelligence reports suggests Chinese spies are often tapping the President's calls, a New York Times article reports, as well as Russian agents. According to the report, Mr Trump's aides say he is using the secure landline more now, but still refuses to give up his iPhones.

They hope Mr Trump does not discuss classified information when using them.

As the mobile signals whiz through telephony infrastructure, it is a relatively easy task for governments to intercept the calls. Foreign leaders are aware of the risk, which is why China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin avoid using mobile phones where possible.

The current and former US officials, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said China hopes to use the information to stop a trade war with the US blowing out further.

Chinese spies are thought to be learning how Mr Trump can be swayed, and who is within his sphere of influence. The Times reported they have a strategy to feed arguments to friends of Mr Trump's friends, in the hope that Beijing's views will be delivered to the president from sources he deems trustworthy.

Russia and China are thought to be eavesdropping on Mr Trump. Picture: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko
Russia and China are thought to be eavesdropping on Mr Trump. Picture: AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

While Russia is doing the same, it's understood their efforts don't match those of China's because of Mr Trump's friendliness with Mr Putin. CIA veteran John Sipher said both foreign powers "would look for any little thing - how easily was he talked out of something, (and) what was the argument that was used," according to The New York Times.

While former US President Barack Obama used an iPhone, it was heavily modified. His phone could not make or receive calls, and it has no camera or microphone. It couldn't even download apps.

Effectively, it operated as an email device, and Mr Obama was only able to receive correspondence from specific email addresses. If he needed to make a call, he used one of his aides' phones, an official said.

Mr Trump recently joked about the lack of mobile security. In a Wall Street Journal interview this week, the president said "don't give it to me on the phone. I don't want it on the phone. As good as these phones are supposed to be", when he was asked what American officials had learned about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Mr Trump often attacked Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for her use of an unsecured email server during her time as secretary of state.


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