World

Trump Gives Private Number To Foreign Leaders

| by Simone Stover

President Donald Trump's decision to give his personal cell phone number to foreign leaders has sparked security concerns. 

The Associated Press reports that -- according to former and current U.S. officials speaking on the condition of anonymity -- Trump has encouraged Canadian and Mexican leaders to reach out to him on his cell phone. In addition, he exchanged numbers with recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron following his victory in early May. 

Of those leaders, only Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has contacted Trump via his personal number. A French official would not comment on whether Macron intended to use the number to contact Trump directly. 

In response to such reports, several individuals took to Twitter to mock Trump, turning the president's decision into an internet meme, reports The Hill. Users frequently made references to the popular song "Hotline Bling" by Drake, which contains the line, "You used to call me on my cell phone." Trump participated in a sketch parody of the song when he hosted an episode of "Saturday Night Live," which -- according to IMDb -- aired back in November 2015. 

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On a more serious note, Trump's decision to give away his personal number has raised concerns about national security. According to the AP, presidents usually only place calls from secure phone lines, which include those in the White House Situation Room, the Oval Office, and the presidential limousine. Experts say that even if Trump uses a government-issued cell phone, his calls are still vulnerable to eavesdropping. 

"If you are speaking on an open line, then it's an open line, meaning those who have the ability to monitor those conversations are doing so," said Derek Chollet, a former Pentagon adviser and National Security Council official, according to the AP. 

In addition, experts say that even countries who are considered to be allies might take advantage of having Trump's number. 

"If you are Macron or the leader of any country and you get the cellphone number of the president of the United States, it's reasonable to assume that they'd hand it right over to their intel service,” Ashley Deeks, a law professor at the University of Virginia who formerly served as the assistant legal adviser for political-military affairs in the U.S. State Department, told the AP. 

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Trump has reportedly already had more issues than past presidents in keeping conversations with foreign leaders private. Conversations with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and Russian diplomats have all been leaked.

In addition, Trump's use of his personal cell phone has sparked talk of hypocrisy. Throughout his campaign, he criticized Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for using a private email server during her run as U.S. Secretary of State.

However, Trump's cell phone usage thus far has reportedly been much more relaxed than that of former President Barack Obama. Most of the functions on Obama's BlackBerry were blocked, and only a select number of individuals had access to his personal information. Slate also reports that the last phone Obama used as president -- a Samsung Galaxy S4 -- did not have the capability to place calls. 

Sources: AP, Slate, The Hill, IMDb / Photo credit: The White House/Flickr

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