Trump Calls Report on Chinese Phone Spying ‘Soooo Wrong’

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Donald Trump disputed the accuracy of a New York Times report that the China’s spies eavesdrop on calls he makes on unsecured iPhones after Beijing dismissed the story as “fake news."

"The so-called experts on Trump over at the New York Times wrote a long and boring article on my cellphone usage that is so incorrect I do not have time here to correct it," Trump said Thursday morning in a Twitter posting. "I only use Government Phones, and have only one seldom used government cell phone. Story is soooo wrong!"

The president’s comments follow Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying’s comment earlier Thursday that “certain people in the U.S. are sparing no efforts to win the best screenplay award for the Oscars.” Hua didn’t directly address allegations the Times reported Wednesday -- that Trump had disregarded warnings from his aides that China and Russia were monitoring his conversations.

“This just provides more evidence of the New York Times creating fake news,” Hua said in Beijing, borrowing a favorite Trump attack line. She then offered a pointed pitch for Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese phone maker whose equipment has been shunned by the U.S. government over security concerns.

“If there are concerns about Apple calls being listened-in on, then you can change to Huawei phones,” Hua said.

Trump uses the iPhones to speak to “old friends,” and domestic spy agencies have determined China is seeking to use information from the calls to keep a trade war with the U.S. from escalating, the Times said, citing unidentified current and former U.S. officials. The agencies were said to have learned of the eavesdropping from people inside foreign governments and through intercepting communications between foreign officials, the report said.

Call List

The Chinese have pieced together a list of people whom Trump regularly speaks to in hopes of using them to influence the president, according to the report. Russia’s operation is believed to be less sophisticated because of his “apparent affinity” for President Vladimir Putin, a former official is cited as saying.

“We already treat such publications with humor,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call, while not directly denying the report.

While Trump is using his secure landlines more often, aides were said to be frustrated that he has refused to give up his two official iPhones and a personal one. The official devices have been modified by the National Security Agency to limit their capabilities, but the personal phone where he can store contacts isn’t, the paper said.

None are completely secure as calls can be intercepted as they travel through cell towers, cables and switches that make up national and global phone networks, the report said.

Blackstone Group Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman and Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn are among “ideal targets” identified by China who can eventually convey the Asian nation’s views to Trump, the Times said.

A representative for Wynn declined to comment while a spokeswoman for Schwarzman said he “has been happy to serve as an intermediary on certain critical matters between the two countries at the request of both heads of state.”

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Peter Martin in Beijing at pmartin138@bloomberg.net;Melissa Cheok in Singapore at mcheok2@bloomberg.net

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

With assistance from Editorial Board