“Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text. . . . I guarantee the Russians have the actual information.”
Those are the words of John Sipher, the CIA’s former deputy chief of Russia operations, telling the Washington Post that Russia probably knows more about Rudy Giulani’s calls regarding Ukraine than impeachment investigators do.
The Post reported Thursday that phone logs between Giuliani and the White House switchboard suggest high-level communications on personal cellphones that were almost certainly under foreign surveillance.
Sipher told the Post that Russian intelligence likely monitors Giuliani’s calls and that through the continued use of unsecured phones, Guiliani and President Donald Trump have effectively “given the Russians ammunition they can use in an overt fashion, a covert fashion or in the twisting of information.”
An unnamed former senior aide agreed that the Russians have likely been eavesdropping on calls between Trump and Giuliani. “It’s a bonanza for them,” he told the Post.
And it’s not just calls with the president — the Post said that Giuliani’s phone conversations with people such as Lev Parnas could be just as valuable to foreign spies, especially if he was recounting conversations he had with Trump.
U.S. officials told the Post that Giuliani would have been a prime target for Russian intelligence efforts since early on in Trump’s administration. And knowing about their discussions could greatly help Russian disinformation efforts in Ukraine and the U.S., they said.
The Post said the call logs suggest that three years into his term and after multiple warnings from intelligence officials, Trump still uses personal cellphones that are vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping. One former Trump administration official told the Post that former chief of staff John Kelly tried to get Trump to use secure White House phone lines in 2017, but Trump refused because there then would be logs of his calls.
Trump’s use of unsecured phones was reported as far back as May 2017, after reports that he gave foreign leaders his private cellphone number. A Politico report a year later said Trump found the secure lines “too inconvenient.”
Giuliani has had his own security issues — in October, NBC News reported he brought his phone to an Apple Store to get it unlocked, a move that experts called “crazy” and “unnerving” because an Apple employee with no security clearance could have accessed classified information.
Ironically, one of Trump’s main lines of attack against 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton was her use of a private email server that was vulnerable to hacking.