Basically nothing was sacred to Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, except Hillary Clinton’s email account. This was the one thing he insisted needed to be done by the book. And in Trump’s telling, Clinton’s choice to use a private email server had grave consequences. At one point Trump said he was “sure” China had hacked her server and that the whole thing was “putting all of America and our citizens in danger, great danger.”
You’d think a guy who felt so strongly about that would go above and beyond to protect his personal communications once he became president. Apparently, you’d think wrong.
Politico is reporting that Trump has eschewed the normal security procedures when it comes to his personal cellphones. He has at least two - one for making calls and one for Twitter - but the call-capable phone has a camera and a microphone, which was against protocol in the Obama administration because those things could be used to monitor a president’s activities and movements. As for the Twitter phone, Trump has reportedly gone as long as five months without having it checked by security experts, despite phones being checked every 30 days during the Obama administration.
Trump’s reasoning for resisting the regular security sweep? It’s “too inconvenient,” according to one official.
That sound you hear is 60 million Hillary Clinton supporters tearing their hair out. You might recall this was exactly the justification used by Clinton for her private server: convenience. “When I got to work as secretary of state, I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.”
Whether convenience was truly Clinton’s reason for the private server is up for debate (it certainly seems possible she was attempting to avoid disclosure). But even if you set that aside, there are eerie parallels between what Trump attacked Clinton for and what he’s doing now.
“Clinton’s home email server that she lied to the American people about was a profound national security risk,” Trump wrote in one Facebook post. “Hillary Clinton has bad judgment and is unfit to serve as President.”
He added in July 2016 in a campaign speech: “This is not just extreme carelessness with classified material, which is still totally disqualifying. This is calculated, deliberate, premeditated misconduct.”
He added on the eve of the election: “It’s believed that no less than five foreign intelligence agencies successfully hacked into Hillary’s illegal insecure server. In other words, Hillary’s corrupt criminal scheme put the safety of every American family in danger; that’s what’s happened.”
A lack of regular security checks on his cellphone may not be on the same scale as a “home-brew” private email server, but the practical implications are similar - the possibility that foreign actors could gain access and use it against Trump and the United States. Trump seemed very bothered by that possibility as a candidate; he seems far less bothered as president - almost as if he wasn’t really that concerned in the first place.
A White House aide insisted to Politico that technological advances have made for more secure devices and necessitate less procedural security. But Trump went big on the importance of taking every precaution as a candidate. Matching the Obama administration’s protocols would seem a very basic way to avoid any possibility of the “great danger” Trump warned about as a candidate.
Aaron Blake is a columnist with The Washington Post.