Experts say ambassador's call to Trump from Ukraine was 'insane' security breach

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Security experts say Russia likely picked up Gordon Sondland's cell phone call to Trump from Kyiv.

U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland's cell phone call to Donald Trump from a Kyiv restaurant on July 26 was a serious breach of security protocol, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"In a country that is so wired with Russian intelligence, you can almost take it to the bank that the Russians were listening in on the call," Larry Pfeiffer, former senior director of the White House Situation Room, told the Post. He added that the "security ramifications are insane," criticizing the lax cybersecurity measures in place that allowed an ambassador to use a cell phone to call Trump from Ukraine.

The revelation of the phone call, which was not known before Wednesday's hearing, "shows the unacceptable lack of cybersecurity" by the Trump administration, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) wrote on Twitter. "Any foreign power can listen in on a cell phone by exploiting a flaw known as 'SS7.' Look it up. It will scare you." Lieu was referring to a well-known cellular network flaw.

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The cell phone call was revealed by Bill Taylor, a top American diplomat in Ukraine, during Wednesday's impeachment hearing. Taylor said an aide was present for the call, which took place one day after Trump's infamous July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to investigate both former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

Taylor said his aide asked Sondland about the cell phone call when it ended, and Sondland told the aide that Trump "cares more about the investigations of Biden, which [Rudy] Giuliani was pressing for."

The newly revealed call directly links Trump to the alleged extortion scheme involving the Trump administration withholding military aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country to investigate Biden and the DNC.

In addition to directly linking Trump to the Ukraine scandal, the call was also likely intercepted by not only Russia by any other foreign government in the world.

Ambassadors don't usually use their cell phone to call the president, Michael McFaul, a former ambassador to Russia, told the Post. "They never do so to discuss Ukraine policy," McFaul said, adding that "Doing so on a cellphone from Kyiv means [the] whole world was listening in."

The aide who overheard the call is scheduled to testify to the committees leading the impeachment inquiry in a closed-door hearing on Friday.

Sondland did not include the July 26 phone call in his original or revised testimony to Congress. He is scheduled to testify in a public hearing next week, and will likely be asked to provide more information about this call.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.