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Hullabaloo


Monday, April 23, 2018

 
Hello? Is this Donald?

by digby


Everybody wondered why Trump unilaterally decided not to issue the sanctions against Russia which Nikki Haley had publicly announced were coming. Too bad nobody can check his cell phone log. Who knows what it would reveal?

President Donald Trump is increasingly relying on his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers, multiple sources inside and outside the White House told CNN, as Trump returns to the free-wheeling mode of operation that characterized the earliest days of his administration.

"He uses it a lot more often more recently," a senior White House official said of the President's cell phone.

Sources cited Trump's stepped-up cell phone use as an example of chief of staff John Kelly's waning influence over who gets access to the President ... one source close to the White House speculated that the President is ramping up the use of his personal device recently in part because "he doesn't want Kelly to know who he's talking to."

The senior White House official said Trump "is talking to all sorts of people on it," noting Trump's barrage of private calls is a "recent development."

Three sources familiar with the situation said Trump has also increased his direct outreach to GOP lawmakers over the past several weeks, sometimes employing his cell phone.

"Basically, at this point, he's just sort of engaging on his own," observed a source familiar with Trump's calls to congressional allies.

"Kelly used to be more clearly the gatekeeper than he is now from a Hill standpoint," that source added, noting members would typically call Kelly's office if they wanted to set up a talk with Trump rather than dial the President directly.

"I don't know that he even is running it by the chief of staff anymore," the staff said.
[...]
Former President Barack Obama was permitted to use a Blackberry during his presidency. However, the White House said at the time that the device given to Obama was outfitted with enhanced security to protect potentially classified talks.

A security expert said the President's increased cell phone use makes his calls more vulnerable to eavesdropping from foreign governments.

"All communications devices of all senior government officials are targeted by foreign governments. This is not new," said Bryan Cunningham, executive director of the Cybersecurity Policy and Research Institute at the University of California-Irvine.

"What is new in the cell phone age is the ease of intercepting them and that at least our last two presidents ... have chafed at not being able to use their personal cell phones," Cunningham added. "Of course, calls are only secure if both parties use a secure device."

Another implication of Trump's private cell phone use, Cunningham noted, is the possibility that Trump's conversations may not be "captured for the purposes of government accountability and history."

All features not bugs.

Update: Not directly related but close:

The Treasury Department Monday eased sanctions on Russian aluminum producer Rusal and said it would consider lifting them altogether if the company severs ties with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

Rusal was sanctioned earlier this month by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control because of Deripaska's stake in the company. The Russian billionaire is alleged to have conducted a range of illegal activities, including money laundering, extortion and ordering the murder of a businessman, according to Treasury.

He is also reportedly part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election...Deripaska made headlines last year after it was reported that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort offered him "private briefings" on the 2016 election less than two weeks after Trump became the Republican nominee.

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