Trump regularly uses at least two government-issued iPhones — one a “burner” device capable only of making calls, and another that’s loaded with a Twitter app and “a handful of news sites,” according to Politico, which said former government security experts criticized the president’s phone practices.
Trump’s call-only phone has a camera and microphone — features that can be exploited by hackers, Politico reported, citing two senior administration officials as sources. As for the phone Trump uses for Twitter, the president reportedly has rebuffed his staff’s advice to swap the device every month, saying it would be “too inconvenient.”
Trump’s attitude toward his own communications security contrasts with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state ― something Trump and his allies have assailed for years.
Politico said Trump has gone for as long as five months without getting his Twitter phone checked by security experts. The GPS trackers on both of Trump’s devices have reportedly been deactivated.
The White House declined to comment for the Politico story. A senior West Wing official told the outlet that the call-only phones “are seamlessly swapped out on a regular basis through routine support operations. Because of the security controls of the Twitter phone and the Twitter account, it does not necessitate regular change-out.”
Monday’s report is the second in recent weeks to raise questions about security surrounding Trump’s cellphones.
CNN reported in April that Trump increasingly relied on his personal cellphone to make calls. Security experts expressed concern that the president was exposing himself to security risks, including hacking and eavesdropping by foreign governments.
“Use of personal smartphones, which may not have all of the security features of government-issued smartphones or be regularly updated to address newly discovered vulnerabilities, present an obvious potential security risk,” Mary McCord, a former head of the Justice Department’s national security division, told CNN.
Similar warnings were repeated this week.
“Foreign adversaries seeking intelligence about the U.S. are relentless in their pursuit of vulnerabilities in our government’s communications networks, and there is no more sought-after intelligence target than the president of the United States,” Nate Jones, a former director of counterterrorism on the National Security Council during the Obama era, told Politico.
Ignoring phone security for the sake of convenience, “could pose significant risks to the country,” Jones added.
The White House announced in January that staff and guests would be banned from using personal cellphones in the West Wing for security reasons. Press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to say whether the restriction would apply to Trump’s personal devices, reported NBC News.
People on social media expressed alarm at the reported security shortcomings of the president’s phone use. Some were also quick to point out Trump’s repeated criticism of Clinton’s use of a private email server.
“Will [Trump’s] supporters cheer ‘lock him up’? Or does that only apply to emails?” wrote former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti on Twitter.
“Am I wrong that there’s, like, a 100% chance the phone has been hacked?” asked MSNBC host Chris Hayes.