John Kelly was secretly listening to Trump’s calls: Kushner

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John Kelly was secretly listening to Trump's calls: Kushner

John Kelly was secretly “listening to all” of President Donald Trump’s conversations without telling him, first son-in-law Jared Kushner reveals in his forthcoming book.

Kushner writes that Trump was unaware that the former Marine Corps general turned White House chief of staff was listening to his phone calls until after Kelly’s departure was announced in late 2018.

The revelation so concerned Trump that after Kelly left he issued an order to prevent any other senior White House staff from eavesdropping on his calls, Kushner writes in in “Breaking History,” set for release this month.

Trump’s son-in-law describes his own tense relationship with Kelly including how Trump’s chief of staff restricted Kushner’s access to classified information and barred him from talks on opening a US embassy in Jerusalem.

Incoming acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney raised Kelly’s surveillance of Trump’s calls before a Dec. 28, 2018, dinner at Vice President Mike Pence’s official residence, Kushner wrote — before Kelly’s official last day on Jan. 2.

“Before we departed, Mulvaney and I met with the president to discuss his upcoming schedule. Then Mulvaney handed Trump a document to sign,” Kushner recounted.

Trump and John Kelly
Kelly worked in the White House under Trump for roughly 17 months.
Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

Mulvaney told Trump, “This will end the practice Kelly started of listening to all of your phone calls.”

Mulvaney “explain[ed] that Kelly had given himself the ability to listen surreptitiously to the president’s calls,” according to the account.

Kushner wrote that Trump was furious to hear that Kelly, with whom he later had a bitter public break, was listening to calls without his knowledge.

“‘Kelly did what?’ the president asked, stunned at the invasion of privacy,” Kushner wrote.

Trump added, “End that immediately.”

It’s unclear what exactly was banned by the Mulvaney-drafted order.

Kushner's book "Breaking History"
Kushner’s book “Breaking History” is set for release this month.
Broadside Books

According to prior reporting, Trump sometimes would tell contacts to avoid the White House switchboard because he suspected that Kelly kept tabs on who called him, but it was not previously reported that Kelly allegedly surveilled the audio of Trump’s calls.

A person familiar with the assertions made by Kushner supported his account.

The source told The Post that Kelly’s eavesdropping “was possible and was happening” and that it was “wholly inappropriate for the chief — or anyone — to listen in on [Trump’s] calls without telling the president.”

The National Archives holds Trump White House records, but did not immediately respond to a request for comment on documentation that would support the account, such as a copy of the order.

Kelly did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on Kushner’s book. Mulvaney, reached by The Post, did not disagree with Kushner’s description of events.

During his roughly 17 months as White House chief of staff, Kelly privately boasted about controlling Trump’s impulses and sought to impose order after Trump’s turbulent initial six months in office.

But Kushner wrote that he believed Kelly also acted tactically to steer policy decisions.

Kushner wrote that his own ability to participate in West Wing decision-making was restricted when Kelly yanked his top secret security clearance in early 2018 — after Kelly excluded him from a 2017 meeting about moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Ivanka Trump, former Chief of Staff John Kelly and former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner
Ivanka Trump, former Chief of Staff John Kelly and former White House senior adviser Jared Kushner listen as President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting.
Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Kushner’s security clearance status was a frequent topic of news coverage at the time, and Kushner wrote that Kelly withheld his access without justification.

Kelly took away Kushner’s top secret security clearance saying “we can’t have another Rob Porter situation,” despite privately admitting that the FBI raised no red flags about Kushner’s application, according to the book.

Kushner wrote that Kelly later delayed the return of his security clearance — even after the FBI and White House Personnel Security Office chief Carl Kline said he could have it back — because Kelly said he was “concerned about how it would look.”

Months earlier, Kushner wrote that in November 2017, Kelly excluded him and Trump’s special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt from a Situation Room meeting with Trump about whether to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. 

Kelly reportedly told Kushner that “he was concerned that the decision would result in violent attacks on our embassies, and if Americans died as a result, he didn’t want me to be blamed for it.”

But Kelly allegedly told US ambassador to Israel David Friedman that “he didn’t want history to show that three Orthodox Jews, who might be biased in favor of Israel, had participated in such a consequential meeting.”

Trump at desk
Trump was unaware that Kelly was listening to his calls, according to Kushner.
Tamara Beckwith/NY Post

Kushner wrote that he believed Kelly actually was carrying out a “power play” so that Friedman, an advocate of the embassy move, “was outnumbered” in the discussion. Regardless, Trump decided to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Friedman did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

A previously reported passage from Kushner’s book alleges that Kelly shoved his wife Ivanka Trump, which Kelly denied.

Kushner, now 41, was involved in many of Trump’s most notable initiatives. He helped broker the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement and pass the 2018 First Step Act that included prison and criminal sentencing reforms. He helped lead the White House coronavirus response in 2020 and during the final months of Trump’s term led efforts to broker diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries.

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