According to a report in Wednesday's New York Times, President Donald Trump's aides have been warning him that the calls he makes and takes on his pair of Apple iPhone handsets are not secure. These aides also caution the president that the Russians are listening in to his conversations, while U.S. Intelligence states that Chinese spies are often listening in as well. In fact, the Times cites current and past officials who state that through sources inside foreign governments and from intercepted communications, they know that China and Russia are listening in to the president's conversations.
Trump's aides have pushed the president into increasing his use of a secure landline, but he still uses his iPhones so much that White House officials worry whether he is discussing classified information on them. The president was given his iPhones by the White House Information Technology and the White House Communications Agency. One model was pre-installed with Twitter and several news apps. This device connects to the internet only via Wi-Fi. The other unit, referred to as the president's "burner" phone, can only make and take calls. Aides would like to see both devices swapped out monthly, but only the "burner" phone is regularly exchanged. The iPhone that features Twitter and the pre-loaded news apps has gone as long as five months without being checked for bugs.
The Chinese are said to be using information picked up from monitoring Trump's calls to figure out who he listens to the most. A list containing the names of these people are said to be used by China in an attempt to influence the president's thinking on matters important to the country, like the U.S.-China trade war.
The New York Times says that Trump uses his smartphones when he doesn't want a call to go through the White House switchboard. Those calls are logged and can be reviewed by Trump's senior aides. Those familiar with the president's smartphone usage says that he typically calls Fox News hosts on his handset, or others who share his views and can commiserate with him over real or imagined slights.
It does appear that the president is not taking the issue of secure conversations seriously. Last year, he left one of his iPhones in a golf cart at his Bedminister, N.J. club, which put White House officials on heightened alert until the handset was found.