China and Russia eavesdrop on President Donald Trump as he uses his unsecured cellphone to “gossip, gripe or solicit” his friends’ take on how he is doing, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing US intelligence agencies.
Trump’s aides have repeatedly warned him that his cell phone calls are not secure, and they have told him that Russian spies are routinely eavesdropping on the calls, as well, the paper said.
But aides say the voluble president, who has been pressured into using his secure White House landline more often these days, has still refused to give up his iPhones. White House officials say they can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information when he is on them.
Trump’s use of his iPhones was detailed by several current and former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so they could discuss classified intelligence and sensitive security arrangements. The officials said they were doing so not to undermine Trump, but out of frustration with what they considered the president’s casual approach to electronic security.
“Chinese spies are often listening to these phone calls and putting to use invaluable insights into how to best work the president and affect administration policy,” The New York Times said citing unnamed current and former US officials.
“American spy agencies, the officials said, had learned that China and Russia were eavesdropping on the president’s cell phone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials,” the daily said.
The White House did not immediately respond to a question regarding the report.
According to the daily, US intelligence officials have determined that China is seeking to use what it is learning from the calls — how 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, according to the newspaper.
“Russia is not believed to be running as sophisticated an influence effort as China because of Trump’s apparent affinity for President Vladimir Putin,” a former official told the daily.
The New York Times said Trump typically relies on his cellphones when he does not want a call going through the White House switchboard and logged for senior aides to see.
“Many of those Mr Trump speaks with, most often on one of his cellphones, such as hosts at Fox News, share the president’s political views, or simply enable his sense of grievance about any number of subjects,” the daily said.
Reacting to the report, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying in Beijing said: “certain people in the US are sparing no efforts to win the best screenplay award at the Oscars”.
Hua said the New York Times should know if they publish this type of report it provides another piece of evidence of making the fake news.
“If they (Trump administration) are worried about Apple phones being listened in on, they should swap them with Huawei phones,” Hua said
She was referring to one of China’s largest telecommunications firms, which has been largely blocked from the US market over national security concerns. PTI