President Donald Trump has reportedly increased his use of a private cell phone to make calls to a stable of friends and advisers outside the White House.
CNN cited sources inside the Trump administration who reportedly said the change may reflect growing fractures between the president and his chief of staff, John Kelly. The two have grown increasingly frustrated with each other in recent weeks, and as The Washington Post noted earlier this month, Kelly’s influence has waned.
One source speculated to CNN that Trump was using his personal phone because he “doesn’t want Kelly to know who he’s talking to.”
“Kelly used to be more clearly the gatekeeper than he is now from a Hill standpoint,” another source told the cable network. “I don’t know that [Trump] even is running it by the chief of staff anymore.”
The White House switchboard sends Kelly a log of everyone Trump speaks to, but any calls made on the president’s private line would bypass that system.
Trump isn’t the first resident of the White House to have access to a private cell phone. Former President Barack Obama used a Blackberry while in office, but it was outfitted with security measures and specialized encryption. It’s unclear if Trump’s phone has the same protections.
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper called the reports about Trump using a personal cell phone troubling and said that such communications could be targeted by foreign intelligence.
“He may be keeping things from his chief of staff, but he will elicit the interest of foreign intelligence services,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon. “This is potentially a gold mine of intelligence for them. Even if he is using some kind of secure app, there’s all kind of inferential things you can derive from the fact he’s doing that ... even if you don’t get the content.”