Trump’s abundance of Executive Time

President Donald Trump exits Air Force One at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base. Photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck.

A week’s worth of private presidential schedules obtained by Politico reveal that President Trump had more free time than work time on this past Tuesday, three times as much in fact. On Tuesday October 23 , Trump had three hours of work time scheduled versus nine hours of Executive Time. Politico reports that a review of the President’s agenda for the week of October 22 through October 26 shows that, while Tuesday had the most free time scheduled for the week, such a schedule is not out of the ordinary.

On the 23rd, President Trump’s first scheduled meeting of the day was with chief of staff John Kelly at 11:30 am. He had a 30 minute phone call and was slated to speak briefly at a leadership conference. There was an evening military briefing and dinner with the senior military officers.

These activities accounted for barely three hours of the day, with the rest of the hours blocked off as Executive Time, according to Politico.

Wednesday’s agenda was similar: An 11:30 meeting with John Kelly was followed by comments on the opioid crisis and an interview before leaving for a rally.

The review of the private schedule shows that the president spent much of last week traveling for rallies and campaigning, even as explosives were being sent to Democrats and the media. Trump was scheduled to receive his Presidential Daily Briefing on only two days. Policy discussions took up only two hours of the whole week. 

Aides point out that Trump is working, even when his schedule does not indicate it. 

Last week, White House aides say, Trump was briefed on the spate of attempted pipe bombings that targeted some of his political enemies, last-minute meetings that did not appear on his private schedule. On Monday afternoon, the president said on Twitter that he had just spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, calls also left off the schedule.


Sources close to the president call him a workaholic and wish he would sleep more and work less. But the private schedules obtained by Politico show that the president’s schedule now is different only in the increasing amount of Executive Time reported by Axios in January. At the time, Trump’s private schedules showed his time in the Oval Office started around 11 am and ended around 6 pm. The private schedules obtained by Axios and Politico are different than the “sanitized” schedules released to the public, Axios points out.

Executive Time is a concept created by John Kelly when he stepped into the role of chief of staff after Rience Preibus was fired. Trump complained when he was expected to attend multiple meetings and didn’t “have time to think”, so Kelly cleared his schedule, giving the president time to tweet and watch TV.

The result is that Trump will hear something on TV or read something in the paper and call an impromptu meeting, leaving aides scrambing to placate their fickle boss. 

The defense of this arrangement is that sometimes during Executive Time, Trump gets worked up about an issue and demands an immediate meeting on a whim, and then his aides have to scramble to explain whatever triggered him. “He might read something in the paper and immediately you’d get an impromptu meeting on trade,” a person familiar with the president’s scheduling tells Politico. “It’s just more impromptu than like a month in advance you have a policy time set that you’re going to work up to.”

So, yes, on occasions, Executive Time includes real work, or at least an ersatz version of work in which aides talk the president down from his state of rage or confusion, or stall for time until he gets distracted.

New York Magazine

 Even the president’s defenders acknowledge that his increasing Executive Time spent watching cable news and tweeting is defining his agenda and his presidency. 

Presidents have always customized their schedules around their personal preferences – George W. Bush was typically in the Oval by 6:45 am, while Obama arrived between 9 and 10 am, after working out.  

Obama’s former deputy chief of staff for policy told Politico she recalls Obama being booked for six or seven hours of policy meetings most days. Yuval Levin, former domestic policy aide to President George W. Bush, told Politico, “it makes sense that his schedule would reflect his preferences to some degree. But the lack of structure yields a lack of orderly decision-making and discipline that can be a huge problem given the demands of the job. “’Executive’ is the last thing I would call unstructured time.”

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*Principle above party * Politically Homeless * Ex GOP * Tribalism is stupid* NeverTrump ≠ Pro Hillary. Anti-GOP ≠ Pro Dem. Disagreeing with you ≠ Liberal. Counter Social: @NoMorePlatosCave