According to Buzzfeed, Donald Trump listened in on private phone calls at his resort Mar-a-Lago during the mid-2000’s.
Four former employees who knew the phone system at the resort attested that Trump used a telephone console installed in his bedroom which connected to every phone extension on the estate to eavesdrop on landline calls between club employees and even between staff and guests. All four said that they had seen Trump’s phone system, which they said looked like a switchboard.
Each source had a different story to tell; one told of an instance in which a staff member conversed with a club member. While they were speaking, Trump called the staff member on another line to offer his opinion on the issue under discussion. The source stated, “There is no other way you could know what that conversation was about unless you were eavesdropping.”
A second source said he knew Trump “could pick up the phone in the bedroom and listen to any conversation that was going on.” He added that staff using a different switchboard knew when Trump was listening in because a light on that switchboard would come on.
A third source recalled that when Trump eavesdropped, the phones of some of the resort’s executives had a light flashing the extension that Trump was on. When Trump was eavesdropping, another light on these phones — but not on most other phones in the estate — would flash, revealing Trump was listening.
A fourth source said that the resort’s phone system had “barge-in” capability, which would permit someone to tap into other calls; the source said Trump would do so periodically.
The sources had to remain anonymous because in order to work for Trump, they had to sign non-disclosure agreements. They agreed that Trump’s eavesdropping did not include guests or members’ calls with non-employees of Mar-a-Lago.
The managing director of Mar-a-Lago, Bernd Lembcke, told Buzzfeed that he sent their email request for information to Trump’s headquarters, adding, “I have no knowledge of what you wrote.” Trump’s spokeswoman Hope Hicks issued a one-sentence response to the claims from the ex-employees: “This is totally and completely untrue.”
The four ex-employees said they enjoyed working at the resort, but none of them support Trump for president. Trump’s former butler and Mar-a-Lago’s former security director, both of whom support Trump’s candidacy, said he did not eavesdrop.
The New York Times reported in late May that Trump’s campaign staff had fears that their offices in Trump Tower in New York might be bugged, writing, “A sense of paranoia is growing among his campaign staff members, including some who have told associates they believe that their Trump Tower offices in New York may be bugged …”
Referring to the NSA’s bulk collection of metadata, Trump told radio host Hugh Hewitt, “I tend to err on the side of security … I assume when I pick up my telephone people are listening to my conversations anyway, if you want to know the truth.”
“There is no other way you could know what that conversation was about unless you were eavesdropping.”
Former Mar-a-Lago employee
It is a usually a violation of Florida state law intercept or record phone calls without the consent of the participants, although some lawyers argue that because the conversations involved employees, it may be legal. The law states that the law is violated if a person:
Intentionally intercepts, endeavors to intercept, or procures any other person to intercept or endeavor to intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication; intentionally uses, endeavors to use, or procures any other person to use or endeavor to use any electronic, mechanical, or other device to intercept any oral communication when such device is affixed to, or otherwise transmits a signal through, a wire, cable, or other like connection used in wire communication . . .