Normally, when an urgent issue of international security arises, the US president retires to a secure area where smartphones are forbidden.
On Saturday, however, news of North Korea’s missile test arrived just as Donald Trump was having dinner with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe at Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club. And the two men formulated a response in the middle of the dining room in front of a watchful audience of club members and waiters.
Boston Capital executive Richard DeAgazio was among those revelling in his front-row seat. He published a flurry (now deleted) of Facebook posts of the night’s events.
More worrying than the members’ potential access to conversations are the mobile phones around the table, including some being used as flashlights to illuminate the dimly lit restaurant, and Trump taking calls on what may be his reportedly vulnerable Android device.
Why is that such a concern? As the Washington Post reports, mobile phones are essentially portable eavesdropping devices. That means potential hackers (of which North Korea reportedly has 6,000) had a number devices to target, and a wealth of classified information at hand.
Trump railed against Hillary Clinton and her hacked emails throughout the campaign, criticizing his Democratic opponent for deficient security protocols. The incident is also likely to intensify questions about the appropriateness of Mar-a-Lago as a presidential retreat. Initiation fees for the club doubled to $200,000 after the inauguration, and it seems that the occasional chance to join security briefings is an additional perk.
Trump aides have countered that George W. Bush used his Texas ranch to host foreign leaders, but the ranch didn’t have random guests wandering around. DeAgazio, for example, also posted a picture of himself and “Rick,” the military aide who carries the presidential briefcase containing authentication codes for a nuclear attack.
After issuing a brief statement in support of the US-Japan alliance, Trump made an appearance at a wedding taking place at the club. In a video posted by New York Magazine, Trump congratulates the son of major donor Carl Linder III, and tells the crowd he had seen the married couple taking photos earlier on the lawn: “I said to the prime minister of Japan, I said, ‘Come on, Shinzo, lets go over and say hello.’”