President Donald Trump leaves large blocks of “private time” on his Oval Office schedule for spontaneous meetings and phone chats with ex-aides, friends, media figures, lawmakers and members of his Cabinet — an old habit he’s carried over from his business days that has frustrated some West Wing aides.
Trump wrote in his 1987 book “The Art of the Deal” that his loose scheduling practices as a real estate magnate at the Trump Organization helped him be “imaginative.” Still, nine White House officials, former aides and personal confidantes interviewed by POLITICO were split on whether the freewheeling set-up, which can allow friends and unofficial advisers to whisper in the president’s ear on policy issues, is productive.
White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump’s schedule has fixed linchpins, which include national security briefings, meetings with Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, roundtables with business executives and public bill signings.
“He has very structured things that take place throughout his schedule, but I think to try to change who he is as a person would be a mistake,” Sanders said. “I think it would be a mistake to cut the president off…I think it allows him to be a better president by engaging and having some flexibility.”
But other aides said Trump’s free time poses a concern. “There may be a block of time, two hours of staff time, who knows what’s going on during that time, anything could happen,” said one White House official.
Tommy Binion, director of policy outreach for The Heritage Foundation, said he was part of a group of about 40 conservative leaders that was meeting with Vice President Mike Pence for a routine listening session in March, when their host started getting notes from staff. Soon, the group was escorted into the Oval Office for a surprise audience with Trump. A White House official confirmed Trump’s appearance was unplanned.