Trump to world lead­ers: Call me

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - POLITICS - BY VI­VIAN SALAMA

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has been hand­ing out his cell­phone num­ber to world lead­ers and urg­ing them to call him di­rectly, an un­usual in­vi­ta­tion that breaks diplo­matic pro­to­col and is rais­ing con­cerns about the se­cu­rity and se­crecy of the U.S. com­man­der in chief’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Trump has urged lead­ers of Canada and Mex­ico to reach him on his cell­phone, ac­cord­ing to former and cur­rent U.S. of­fi­cials with di­rect knowl­edge of the prac­tice. Of the two, only Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau has taken ad­van­tage of the of­fer so far, the of­fi­cials said.

Trump also ex­changed num­bers with French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron when the two spoke im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing Macron’s vic­tory ear­lier this month, ac­cord­ing to a French of­fi­cial, who would not com­ment on whether Macron in­tended to use the line.

All the of­fi­cials de­manded anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to re­veal the con­ver­sa­tions.

The no­tion of world lead­ers call­ing each other via cell­phone may seem un­re­mark­able in the modern, mo­bile world. But in the diplo­matic arena, where leader-to-leader calls are highly or­ches­trated af­fairs, it is an­other no­table breach of pro­to­col for a pres­i­dent who has ex­pressed dis­trust of of­fi­cial chan­nels.

Pres­i­dents gen­er­ally place calls on one of sev­eral secure phone lines, in­clud­ing those in the White House Sit­u­a­tion Room, the Oval Of­fice or the pres­i­den­tial limousine. Even if Trump uses his govern­ment-is­sued cell­phone, his calls are vul­ner­a­ble to eaves­drop­ping, par­tic­u­larly from for­eign gov­ern­ments, national se­cu­rity ex­perts say.

“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.

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