AP NEWS

Pentagon probed for answers about Donald Trump’s cellphone amid ongoing security concerns

May 26, 2018

President Trump’s smartphone use is the subject of a letter sent to Defense Secretary James Mattis by a senator seeking answers about the Pentagon’s efforts to defend the commander-in-chief’s personal device from hackers.

Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Democrat, wrote the retired Marine Corps general Thursday requesting information about the Department of Defense’s procedures for protecting the president’s cellphone in the wake of recent news reports raising “serious security concerns” about the integrity of Mr. Trump’s communications, the lawmaker’s office said in a statement.

Mr. Trump uses a White House phone lacking sophisticated security features meant to shield his communications, according to a recent Politico article cited in Mr. Carper’s letter to the defense secretary, and The Associated Press reported in May 2017 that the president has urged world leaders to reach him directly through his smartphone, the senator wrote.

Despite lingering questions regarding the security of Mr. Trump’s cellphone, however, Mr. Carper, a senior member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the defense secretary has failed so far to qualm his concerns. He previously raised the matter in a letter co-signed by Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat and the committee’s ranking member, but never garnered any answers, he wrote this week.

“As you know, Senator McCaskill and I wrote to you more than fifteen months ago, on February 9, 2017, to gain a better understanding of the efforts by the Department of Defense and the White House to oversee, develop, and implement protective measures for President Trump’s use of a smartphone. As of the date of this letter, the Department has yet to respond,” wrote Mr. Carper.

“Given the need for clarity on this matter, I respectfully renew the requests made in the enclosed February 9, 2017 letter, and request a response no later than June 7, 2018,” Mr. Carper wrote Thursday.

The Pentagon did not immediately comment publicly on the lawmaker’s latest request.

In their initial letter, the Democrats wrote the defense secretary raising concerns about the president’s cellphone use less than a month into his administration, referencing recent news reports that suggested Mr. Trump was using an “old, unsecured Android phone” in office.

“These reports are very troubling because security risks associated with the use of an unsecured phone include hackers’ ability to access the device to turn on audio recording and camera features, as well as engaging surveillance tools that allow location and other information tracking features,” the senators wrote.

“While it is important for the President to have the ability to communicate electronically, it is equally important that he does so in a manner that is secure and that ensures the preservation of presidential records,” they added.

Subsequent reports, including Politico’s this week, said Mr. Trump continues to use phones lacking security features designed to safeguard his communications.

“The White House is confident in the security protocols in place for the President’s use of communications devices,” a senior White House official told ABC News in response to the Politico report.