Jared Kushner reportedly proposed using Russian equipment to set up a back channel with the Kremlin, but apparently there was a far simpler and equally dangerous solution: passing President Trumpâs cell-phone number to Vladimir Putin.
While not as iconic as the MAGA hat, Trumpâs cell phone is his most problematic accessory. Though he won partly by raising concerns about his opponentâs reckless use of private communications devices, Trump fought to keep his old Android phone after taking office. Axios reported in February that he was using it as a pager, letting friends call him on the old number, then dialing them back on his Secret Serviceâapproved line if he wanted to talk.
Now the Associated Press reports that heâs expanded that exclusive circle to include a number of world leaders. Former and current U.S. officials said he urged Mexican president Enrique PeÃ±a Nieto, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, and French president Emmanuel Macron to call him on his cell phone, rather than using a secure line. Trudeau is said to be the only one whoâs taken him up on the offer so far.
Trump has switched between several devices in recent months, and itâs not clear which one heâs using to chat with fellow leaders. The APâs headline says heâs using a âprivateâ cell phone, but reportedly ditched his old Android for a (presumably modified) iPhone back in March. Last week Axios reported that he was using an iPhone with only one app: Twitter.
Even if Trump is chatting with U.S. allies on his government-issued cell phone, not his old private line, that presents a huge problem. âIf you are speaking on an open line, then itâs an open line, meaning those who have the ability to monitor those conversations are doing so,â Derek Chollet, a former Pentagon adviser and National Security Council official, told the AP. âIf someone is trying to spy on you, then everything youâre saying, you have to presume that others are listening to it.â
It looks like the report might have prompted someone in the White House to finally pry President Trumpâs cell phone out of his hands. A few hours after the story was published, Trump tweeted this: