Several sources tell the New York Times that President Trump's iPhone calls are monitored by Chinese spies on the regular, as the president reportedly refuses to stop using unsecured phones to chat with his friends. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment on the report.
According to The Times, Trump's aides have repeatedly told him that Russian and Chinese spies are routinely eavesdropping on his his personal phone calls; Trump reportedly uses three iPhones, none of which is completely secure and one of which isn't secure at all. However, the president has dismissed these warnings and continues to make calls on the unsecured phones, The Times reports.
As a result, American intelligence agencies believe that China is analyzing the conversations Trump has with his friends in an attempt to determine what types of arguments he finds persuasive; Chinese intelligence has also compiled a list of people with whom Trump speaks the most frequently, according to The Times, in the hopes of influencing them — and, indirectly, Trump.
This influence campaign has reportedly already begun: Chinese officials are feeding arguments to friends of Trump's friends, current and former officials tell The Times, the hope being that these arguments will eventually make their way to the president's ear. One goal of this campaign, officials said, is to prevent Trump's trade war on China from escalating further.
One of the Trump friends that China is reportedly attempting to influence is Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive at the Blackstone Group, while another is casino magnate Steve Wynn. Both have ties to China: Schwarzman helped fund a master's program at Tsinghua University in Beijing, while Wynn once owned a property in Macau.
In a statement to The Times, a Blackstone spokesperson said that he businessman "has been happy to serve as an intermediary on certain critical matters between [China and the United States] at the request of both heads of state," though she didn't comment on the allegations of a Chinese influence campaign.
According to The Times, Russia's operation isn't quite as sophisticated as China's, owing to Trump's close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin; however, Russian intelligence is reportedly listening in on Trump's personal phone calls, too.
The officials who spoke to The Times said they were frustrated with Trump's cavalier attitude toward the security of his own conversations, and that they "can only hope he refrains from discussing classified information" during calls on the unsecured phones. However, some administrations officials said that they aren't concerned about this risk, because Trump "rarely digs into the details of the intelligence he is shown and is not well versed in the operational specifics of military or covert activities."
The report contains more details on Trump's phone habits. He's supposed to swap out his two official phones every 30 days but usually doesn't, according to The Times, as he finds it inconvenient. In addition, Trump reportedly accidentally left his cell phone in a golf cart in New Jersey in 2017, setting off a frantic effort to recover it. It's unclear which phone this was.