Trump ramps up personal cell phone use

President Donald Trump is increasingly relying on his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers, multiple sourc...

Posted: Apr 24, 2018 7:36 AM
Updated: Apr 24, 2018 7:36 AM

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. During the early days of Kelly's tenure, multiple sources said, Trump made many of his calls from the White House switchboard -- a tactic that allowed the chief of staff to receive a printed list of who Trump had phoned. Kelly has less insight into who Trump calls on his personal cell phone.

While Trump never entirely gave up his personal cell phone once Kelly came aboard, 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."

'The walls are breaking'

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.

Some White House allies said they see Trump's more frequent solicitation of advice outside the West Wing as a sign that Kelly's status as a gatekeeper for the President has diminished.

"Definitely, the walls are breaking," one source close to the White House said of the procedures Kelly initially established to regulate access to Trump. Another source close to the White House added that "a lot of meetings, a lot of things have happened lately without Kelly being in the room."

Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has been one notable beneficiary of Kelly's loosened grip. One source said Lewandowski recently bragged to friends that he now enjoys "unfettered" access to the President -- including a recent dinner in the residence with Trump, according to two sources. Upon his arrival last year, Kelly attempted to limit Lewandowski's access to Trump from the nearly unchecked privileges he enjoyed at the start of the administration, although Kelly's efforts were never entirely successful. Lewandowski did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has also made clear that Larry Kudlow, his new economic adviser, and John Bolton, his new national security adviser, are "direct reports" to him and not to Kelly, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Their predecessors, however, reported directly to the chief of staff or at least looped Kelly in after a meeting with the President -- a potential sign of Trump's shift toward controlling more of what goes on in his own White House.

A senior White House official said Kelly's absence from phone calls and meetings in recent weeks is more a reflection of the balance Trump and his chief of staff have struck since Kelly took the job.

"They've grown into some level of comfort," the official said. "There used to be a level of babysitting, and it wasn't organized." The source added Kelly "spent months" fixing the operational process and noted now, Kelly doesn't need to insert himself into as many issues.

Security questions

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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 59881

Reported Deaths: 1693
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5176106
DeSoto321527
Madison227253
Rankin211128
Harrison206732
Jackson187434
Jones174057
Forrest161551
Washington145732
Lauderdale132188
Lee119430
Neshoba119087
Lamar110512
Oktibbeha104434
Warren96425
Lowndes95830
Scott95117
Bolivar93332
Copiah90323
Sunflower90322
Panola89611
Lafayette8619
Holmes83546
Leflore82759
Pike81932
Grenada80520
Yazoo76411
Leake76225
Lincoln73539
Wayne73121
Pontotoc7167
Simpson70726
Monroe68750
Coahoma64810
Tate63822
Marion59418
Adams57825
Covington57611
Winston56615
Marshall5568
George5395
Newton51411
Union51313
Attala49524
Pearl River48036
Tallahatchie44610
Walthall43918
Chickasaw42719
Noxubee41410
Claiborne39913
Smith37413
Calhoun3738
Jasper3738
Clay36414
Alcorn3494
Prentiss3316
Hancock32414
Yalobusha31210
Lawrence3075
Itawamba30610
Tishomingo3063
Clarke29725
Tippah29412
Montgomery2913
Humphreys26511
Tunica2526
Carroll24511
Greene22611
Kemper22315
Quitman2201
Perry2137
Amite2045
Jefferson Davis1966
Webster19512
Jefferson1916
Wilkinson18312
Sharkey1801
Stone1463
Choctaw1254
Benton1240
Franklin1112
Issaquena211
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 85278

Reported Deaths: 1531
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11465225
Mobile8466188
Montgomery6093141
Madison481725
Tuscaloosa385161
Baldwin309521
Shelby295431
Marshall287830
Unassigned256950
Lee245540
Morgan215614
Etowah188424
DeKalb165011
Elmore156237
Walker145063
Calhoun14389
Houston127512
Dallas126523
Russell11851
St. Clair116911
Franklin116520
Limestone115512
Cullman109011
Colbert105011
Lauderdale102812
Autauga98820
Escambia95215
Talladega86213
Chambers80738
Tallapoosa80178
Jackson7833
Dale76318
Butler74335
Blount7043
Coffee6955
Covington68420
Chilton6735
Pike6447
Barbour5545
Lowndes54524
Marion52824
Marengo50614
Clarke4799
Hale44825
Bullock43611
Winston42610
Perry4193
Wilcox4009
Randolph38610
Monroe3853
Conecuh36310
Sumter36118
Bibb3602
Pickens3599
Macon30412
Washington30411
Lawrence2980
Crenshaw2793
Choctaw27112
Greene23911
Henry2383
Cherokee2227
Geneva2160
Clay2005
Lamar1912
Fayette1675
Cleburne1121
Coosa892
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 71°
Columbus
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 68°
Oxford
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 66°
Starkville
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 64°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather