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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

When Trump phones friends, Russians and Chinese eavesdrop

President Trump refuses to give up his iPhones despite warnings that lines are insecure, NYT reports

President Donald Trump often makes calls on his unsecured iPhones and the Russians and Chinese are listening in, NYT reports. AP 
President Donald Trump often makes calls on his unsecured iPhones and the Russians and Chinese are listening in, NYT reports. AP 

When President Donald Trump calls friends on one of his iPhones to complain, gossip or get an opinion on his performance, US intelligence reports show that Chinese spies are often listening in - getting cues on how best to sway the president and influence administrative policy, the New York Times reports.

US intelligence agencies discovered that Russian and Chinese spies are routinely eavesdropping on Mr Trump's cellphone calls from human sources inside foreign governments and intercepting communications between foreign officials, the newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified current and former American officials.

China is using insights from the calls -how Mr Trump thinks, what arguments convince him, and whom he tends to listen to - to keep a trade war with the US from escalating further.

The US imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports worth $250 billion. China responded by imposing duties on some US products. Trade tensions could create more market volatility in the global economy, the International Monetary Fund warned earlier this month.

Trump's aides have warned him that his cellphones are insecure but the president has still refused to give up his iPhones.

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In a mixture of lobbying and espionage, the Chinese have assembled a list of those Mr Trump talks to regularly with the aim of using them to influence the president. The list includes Blackstone Group chief executive Stephen A. Schwarzman and Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn.

The Chinese have identified friends of people on the list and are now relying on Chinese businessmen and others with ties to Beijing to feed arguments to the friends of the Trump friends, NYT reported. The strategy is that those people will pass on what they are hearing, and that Beijing’s views will eventually be delivered to the president by trusted voices, the officials said. They added that the Trump friends were most likely unaware of any Chinese effort.