Russia and China, along with a slew of other foreign powers, may be paying close attention to U.S. President Donald Trump’s fight with COVID-19. And it’s led some experts to wonder if it’s resulted in Chinese and Russian spying.
The president announced on Oct. 2 that he and first lady Melania Trump contracted the virus. Since then, experts believe several foreign adversaries are keeping a close eye on the president’s condition. Former intelligence officials, along with other experts, have cited concerns that foreign powers may be gathering information on how the president’s condition affects U.S. national security.
White House physician Sean Conley has faced criticism for refusing to answer pointed questions about the president’s health. He has declined to share information regarding Trump’s lung condition and the exact date he tested positive for COVID-19. Trump allies have pushed back against concerns over the president’s health, claiming he is healthy and hard at work.
Members of the American public rely on Conley and other members of the White House team to relay information, but foreign powers like Russia and China may be using spying techniques to discern far more. USA Today notes the Kremlin may be “listening in” on private conversations between members of the Trump administration and Trump family members.
Retired senior CIA leader Steven L. Hall said there is “no doubt” that Russia is spying on the White House to learn more about the president’s condition. He also called the current White House a “counterintelligence nightmare.” The Trump administration has been repeatedly criticized for lax security measures, often spurred by the president’s tendency to have conversations about sensitive topics over unsecured phone lines.
Russia is also likely using openly available information to gather intel on the president, according to Peter Feaver, who served on George W. Bush’s National Security Council. There are conflicting reports regarding the president’s condition, along with videos showing him seemingly struggling for air following his discharge from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Concerns over national security were compounded after a senior military officer received a positive COVID-19 test. This has thrust a number of top military officials into quarantine, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and service chiefs from the Army, Navy, and Air Force. With so many leaders ill or in isolation, there are concerns that America’s national security will suffer.
Several other top government officials contracted the virus around the same time as the president. With so much turmoil in the U.S. government, some officials are concerned that our foreign adversaries will see an opening.