Wonder what kind of NSA commander-in-chief Donald Trump would be? Well, he had a phone console near his bed that could connect to every phone in his Mar-a-Lago estate, reports Aram Roston at Buzzfeed. Several workers told Buzzfeed that Trump used the equipment to secretly listen in on phone calls in the mid-2000s.
Mar-a-Lago is a resort in Palm Beach, Florida that Trump operates as a kind of elite country club for paying guests and celebrities. Trump's telephone console in his bedroom was a sort of switchboard that could connect to every phone extension on the estate, six former workers told Buzzfeed. Several of the workers said Trump routinely used the console to listen in on calls involving staff.
Responding to a reporter's questions, a Trump spokesperson gave this one-line answer each time: "This is totally and completely untrue."
The managing director of Mar-a-Lago, Bernd Lembcke, did not respond to emails. Reached by phone, he said he referred the email query to Trump's headquarters and said, "I have no knowledge of what you wrote."
At the 126-room Mar-a-Lago mansion, Trump keeps an apartment set aside for himself and his family, and rents the rest out to guests and members.
BuzzFeed News spoke with six former employees familiar with the phone system at the estate.
Four of them — speaking on condition of anonymity because they signed nondisclosure agreements — said that Trump listened in on phone calls at the club during the mid-2000s. They did not know if he eavesdropped more recently.
They said he listened in on calls between club employees or, in some cases, between staff and guests. None of them knew of Trump eavesdropping on guests or members talking on private calls with people who were not employees of Mar-a-Lago. They also said that Trump could eavesdrop only on calls made on the club's landlines and not on calls made from guests' cell phones.
Each of these four sources said they personally saw the telephone console, which some referred to as a switchboard, in Trump's bedroom.
None of the four supports Trump's bid for president. All said they enjoyed their time working at Mar-a-Lago.
Two other sources — the tycoon's former butler and Mar-a-Lago's former security director — said the console in Trump's private apartment merely made it easier for Trump to call other rooms in the estate. They said their former boss either did not or would not listen in on calls. They both support Trump for president.
The New York Times reported last month that some Trump campaign staff believe their offices in Trump Tower in New York are bugged.