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John Kelly, the head of the White House, was secretly 'listening to all' of Trump's calls

In his upcoming book, first son-in-law Jared Kushner says that John Kelly 'listened to all' of President Trump's conversations without telling him.

Kushner writes that Trump didn't know that White House Chief of Staff and former Marine Corps general John Kelly was listening to his phone calls until late 2018, when Kelly's departure was announced.

Kushner writes in "Breaking History," which will come out this month, that Trump was so upset by the news that after Kelly left, he gave an order that no other senior White House staff could listen in on his calls.

Trump's son-in-law talks about his own tense relationship with Kelly, including how Trump's chief of staff limited Kushner's access to classified information and kept him from talks about opening a US embassy in Jerusalem.

Kushner wrote that incoming acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney brought up Kelly's spying on Trump's phone calls at a Dec. 28 dinner at Vice President Mike Pence's official residence, before Kelly's 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 find out that Kelly, with whom he later had a very public fight, 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

Previous reports said that Trump sometimes told people not to call him at the White House switchboard because he thought Kelly was keeping track of who called him. However, it had not been said that Kelly allegedly listened to Trump's calls.

Someone who knew what Kushner said to be true backed up his story.

The source told The Post that Kelly's eavesdropping "was possible and was happening" and that it was "completely inappropriate for the chief or anyone else to listen in on [Trump's] calls without telling the president."

The National Archives has records from the Trump White House, but they didn't answer right away when asked to comment on proof that would back up the story, like a copy of the order.

Kelly didn't answer The Post's request for a comment on Kushner's book right away. When The Post talked to Mulvaney, he agreed with what Kushner said about what happened.

A different former White House official, however, told The Post that they thought it was "crazy" that Trump ever thought that no one else in the West Wing was listening when he took landline calls.

Kelly was chief of staff at the White House for about 17 months. In private, he was proud of being able to control Trump's impulses and bring order to the office after Trump's first six months were very chaotic.

But Kushner wrote that he thought Kelly was also using strategy to influence policy decisions.

When Kelly took away Kushner's top-secret security clearance in early 2018, it made it harder for him to take part in West Wing decisions. This was because Kelly had left him out of a meeting in 2017 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

At the time, the news often talked about Kushner's security clearance, and Kushner wrote that Kelly had denied him access for no reason.

Kelly took away Kushner's top-secret security clearance, saying, "We can't have another Rob Porter situation," even though, according to the book, Kelly privately admitted that the FBI didn't find anything wrong with Kushner's application.

Kushner wrote that Kelly later put off giving back his security clearance, even though the FBI and White House Personnel Security Office chief Carl Kline said he could. Kelly said he was "worried about how it would look."

Kushner had written months earlier that Kelly had left him and Trump's special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, out of a meeting with Trump in November 2017 about whether to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Kelly is said to have told Kushner, "He was worried that the decision would lead to violent attacks on our embassies, and he didn't want me to be blamed if Americans died because of it."

But Kelly is said to have told David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, that "he didn't want history to show that three Orthodox Jews, who might be biased in favor of Israel, had taken part in such an important 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 thought Kelly was actually trying to "gain power" so that Friedman, who was in favor of moving the embassy, would be "outnumbered" in the discussion. Trump chose to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, no matter what.

The Post asked Friedman for a comment, but he didn't answer right away.

A passage from Kushner's book that has been reported before says that Kelly shoved his wife Ivanka Trump, which Kelly has denied.

Kushner, who is now 41, worked on many of Trump's most important projects. He helped negotiate the trade deal between the US, Mexico, and Canada (USMCA) and pass the 2018 First Step Act, which made changes to prisons and criminal sentencing. In 2020, he helped run the White House's response to the coronavirus, and in the last few months of Trump's term, he was in charge of trying to make peace between Israel and four Arab countries.


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