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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Chaos President, July 2018

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's management style.

Greg Jaffe, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig at WP:
The core of Trump’s freewheeling approach has been in place since his earliest days in the White House. Shortly after he took office, Trump began passing out his personal cellphone number to a handful of foreign leaders, and in April 2017, White House aides were startled when officials in Canada issued a standard summary of a conversation between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trump. In it, Trudeau complained of “unfair duties” and “baseless” claims about trade by Trump administration officials.
No one at the White House was aware the call had taken place. “We had no idea what happened,” a senior U.S. official said.

Typically, such calls, even with close allies, are choreographed affairs. Regional experts prepare talking points covering the wide array of issues that might be raised. The national security adviser will brief the president ahead of the call and remain by his side to offer advice. After the call, a transcript is distributed to key aides, who will issue a public readout.

In this instance, U.S. officials had to rely on Trump’s memory. A terse public readout described “a very amicable call.”

After the call, White House aides urged Trump to route all conversations with foreign leaders through the Situation Room, as required under federal records law, the senior official said.
Trump’s lack of preparation has added a further level of unpredictability to his interactions with foreign leaders, the officials said. The president rarely reads his nightly briefing book, which focuses on issues likely to come up in meetings, a second senior U.S. official said. To slim down Trump’s workload, aides have sometimes put the most critical information in a red folder, the official said.
Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker:
This Trump Unchained era is merely proof that no aide, not even a brusque Marine general with a chest full of medals, is going to bring order to a President determined to have his own way. It’s now clear that Trump is making major decisions without even a nod to the process and order that Kelly was supposedly bringing to his office; no one pretends that major moves, such as the risky nuclear summit with North Korea or recent conflicts with Congress over immigration and the budget, are the result of anything other than the President’s own spur-of-the-moment strategizing. At the same time, Trump has systematically undermined Kelly’s authority, telling both his new national-security adviser, John Bolton, and his chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, that they should report to him directly, not to Kelly. White House officials have also confirmed to reporters that many of the visible signs of Kelly’s authority—such as controlling access to Trump and the list of callers who can be put through to the President—are no more. Trump has, at times, gone to extreme lengths to get around his chief of staff, such as by conducting government business on his unsecured personal cell phone to avoid Kelly’s rules. (“An example,” CNN reported, of Kelly’s “waning influence.”) When I interviewed an outside Trump adviser whom the President consulted on a pressing national-security issue, the Republican told me a similar story: Trump, he recounted, had called him on a personal cell phone. When the adviser learned that the call wasn’t on a secure line, he warned Trump not to tell him what he was planning, but simply to listen. The President, who made so much of Hillary Clinton’s sloppy handling of confidential communications, was now apparently so eager to get around his own chief of staff that he was willing to take such risks.
Brookings tracks turnover in the administration.