Prank calls have long been the domain of of radio shock jocks and bored juveniles. But when one gets through to the president on Air Force One, it highlights for the rest of us the lax security that the White House is taking in securing the president’s communications.
John Melendez, a comedian known as “Stuttering John” who was once a regular on the Howard Stern Show, claimed during his podcast to have reached President Trump Wednesday night while posing as New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat who has been outspoken on immigration reform.
The recording of the call features a voice that sounds like Trump’s discussing immigration policy with the fake Menendez.
In the call, the prankster posing as Menendez tells Trump that his constituents have been asking him about immigration policy, saying “I know that you did something very noble by trying to, you know, get the kids back with their families, but I have to answer them.”
Trump replied: “I wanna be able to take care of the situation, every bit as much as everybody else at the top level… It’s not like it’s good for you or good for me. It’s good for both of us.”
According to Politico, the prankster called the White House switchboard and was told the president could not be reached. But Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner called Melendez back and routed the call to Air Force One.
The White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, which typically coordinates phone calls from Congress to the president, tried to kill the call when it realized Menendez had not tried to reach Trump. But the call went through anyway, Politico said.
The incident underscores concerns about the White House’s handling of its communications technology, which security experts have criticized for not being stringent enough. In late 2016, John Kelly’s personal cell phone was likely compromised when he was part of Trump’s transition team. Kelly now serves as the White House Chief of Staff.
Trump reportedly uses at least two iPhones to conduct White House business, with both lacking the robust security employed by his predecessors. White House aides have reportedly urged the president to swap out his phones on a monthly basis, but the president felt it was “too inconvenient.”
Security expert Bruce Schneier has said that the likelihood that Trump’s communications have already been compromised is high. “The question is how many foreign powers” Schneier told the Washington Post last month, adding that it was safe to assume “that anything said on unsecured phones is known by — name your top six intelligence agencies.”
On Twitter, several people drew comparisons with the furor over the private email server that Hillary Clinton used while Secretary of State.