About a year and a half ago, Politico posted this story — ‘Too inconvenient’: Trump goes rogue on phone security — which reported how his refusal to use secure communications devices posed a security risk. Staff spent a lot of time trying to persuade him that his use of an unsecured cell phone was a BIG security risk. Trump just couldn’t be bothered to change his habits. (Mind you, this is the man who continues to scream to this day that Hillary’s email server was a “really big security violation”.)
Well, now it seems that habit may have exposed him to Russian hacking and blackmail. Per today’s WaPo: Phone logs in impeachment report renew concern about security of Trump communications.
President Trump has routinely communicated with his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and other individuals speaking on cellphones vulnerable to monitoring by Russian and other foreign intelligence services, current and former U.S. officials said.
Phone records released this week by the House Intelligence Committee revealed extensive communications between Giuliani, unidentified people at the White House and others involved in the campaign to pressure Ukraine, with no indication that those calls were encrypted or otherwise shielded from foreign surveillance.
Officially unidentified, but it’s pretty obvious:
Trump is not identified by name in the House phone records, but investigators said they suspect he may be a person with a blocked number listed as “-1” in the files. And administration officials said separately that Trump has communicated regularly with Giuliani on unsecured lines.
WaPo goes a little wishy-washy, though:
The revelations raise the possibility that Moscow was able to learn about aspects of Trump’s attempt to get Ukraine to investigate a political rival months before that effort was exposed by a whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry, officials said.
“Possibility”? No. I guarantee it. This is what the Russians do. They’ve been doing it since at least Peter the Great, and he was over 300 years ago, so they have lots of practice.
U.S. officials said that Giuliani would have been considered a target of Russian intelligence efforts from early in Trump’s presidency and that it is assumed that the Kremlin intensified its surveillance of the president’s lawyer when he turned his focus to Ukraine — a former Soviet republic and target of Kremlin aggression where Russian intelligence has made deep inroads — late last year.
Again, let me expand on that. ANY American of any importance, or of possible future importance, is automatically a target of Russian intelligence. Had Giuliani ever held a federal position, he would have been told this (but would he have listened? Hah).
More to the point: even low-level government officials overseas (and at home) get regular briefings on how to use cell phones and such, and how to watch what say even on secure devices. I could have been fired or even arrested for such a gross violation of security as Trump routinely does every day.
Other officials went further, saying that Trump’s conduct has become a matter of renewed concern among senior officials at the White House after repeated attempts to break him of his habit of speaking on his own cellphone or to others using unsecured lines.“It’s absolutely a security issue,’’ the former aide said, saying foreign intelligence agencies could be listening in on the president’s unsecured calls with Giuliani. “It’s a bonanza for them.”
“Knowingly and willfully” disclosing classified information “in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States” is a federal felony: 18 U.S. Code § 798. And although Trump, as president, can declassify anything he wants, revealing it on a phone call does not constitute declassification.
In any case, an act doesn’t have to be a defined crime to be impeachable. Trump has repeatedly ignored security instructions, and continues to deliberately use equipment he has been told multiple times is vulnerable to foreign intelligence capture. I suggest that this repeated and careless endangering of national security is another impeachable offense — for which the House already the evidence: those phone logs.