Over the weekend and on Monday, Trump fired off tweets reacting to reports that he spends much of his time as president in so-called “executive time,” hours of the day when there’s nothing specific for him to do. Alexi McCammond and Jonathan Swan of Axios published three months of Trump’s private schedule on February 3 after someone leaked the information to McCammond. The schedule showed Trump spent about 60 percent of his scheduled time in “executive time.”
White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said on Sunday that he expected to find the leaker this week. Hours later, Axios sent out more leaked schedules for four days just last week. They show 50 percent of the president’s time was in executive time.
As Mulvaney tries to root out the leaker, Trump is saying it’s no big deal.
In a tweet on Sunday, Trump declared that getting his work schedule for the media is “very easy to do,” but the matter should have been reported in a positive light.
“When the term Executive Time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing,” Trump wrote. “In fact, I probably work more hours than almost any past president.” He declared that the country was “a mess” when he arrived at the White House.
The media was able to get my work schedule, something very easy to do, but it should have been reported as a positive, not negative. When the term Executive Time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing. In fact, I probably work more hours than almost any past President.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2019
....The fact is, when I took over as President, our Country was a mess. Depleted Military, Endless Wars, a potential War with North Korea, V.A., High Taxes & too many Regulations, Border, Immigration & HealthCare problems, & much more. I had no choice but to work very long hours!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2019
He reiterated the sentiment on Monday morning with a tweet saying no president has ever worked harder than him.
No president ever worked harder than me (cleaning up the mess I inherited)!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 11, 2019
In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Mulvaney downplayed the schedules’ significance while also promising to figure out how they got out.
“The stuff in the memos is not that confidential, about 400 people get that. There’s much more private schedules that I see, for example, as chief of staff,” he told host Chris Wallace. “So it’s not the content; it’s the fact that someone within the White House spent three months collecting this information, which is really, really hard to do.”
Mulvaney suggested that the person who leaked the schedules was likely a “career staffer” who wasn’t hired by the Trump administration and lamented that it may be hard to fire that person if and when he or she is discovered. He said he was “hoping to have a resolution” on the matter this week. Given that Axios published new schedules hours later, it doesn’t look promising — or, at least, the person doing it isn’t worried about being caught.
The problem is not just what the schedules say but that they’re being leaked in the first place
While it, of course, isn’t ideal for the public to be seeing information about the president that suggests he might not be doing very much (or at least anything specific) a lot of the time, the bigger issue here might be that the schedules are coming out at all. It’s a pretty big act of subversion for someone close to the president’s orbit to send a reporter months of private information — and to keep doing it even after the White House has set out to discover them.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman noted as much when the first round of schedules was released.
A White House aide is weaponizing his schedules, which says a lot about how people in the White House feel about the man they work for https://t.co/76K7XCzwPD— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 3, 2019
And Trump’s White House has been notoriously leaky. Chatty staffers and insiders appear to have spoken at length to authors such as Michael Wolff and Bob Woodward to provide content for their juicy tell-alls, and many reporters appear to be continually receiving inside information. The White House has on multiple occasions pledged to crack down on leaks, but thus far, efforts have been largely unsuccessful.
Despite Trump’s tweets otherwise, suggestions that he isn’t particularly productive as president clearly bother him. He told reporters on Air Force One in December 2017 he doesn’t watch television and that reports to the contrary are from “fake reporters, fake sources.” He continued, “I don’t get to watch much television, primary because of documents. I’m reading documents a lot.”