High in Tower, Trump Reads, Tweets and Plans
Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman describe the President-Elect’s day-to-day life and remind us of the characteristics of the person the US has chosen as its leader:
Donald J. Trump sits high in Trump Tower in New York, spending hours on the phone with friends, television personalities and donors to ask if they know people to recommend for his cabinet.
He joins a daily morning transition meeting with his family and staff, but still maintains the routine that sustained him during the campaign: starting his day at 5 a.m. reading The New York Post and The New York Times, then switching on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” whose co-host Joe Scarborough he once publicly savaged but now often seeks out for advice.
He gets angry when members of his inner circle get too much of the spotlight, as Rudolph W. Giuliani did when headlines about his millions of dollars in speaking fees appeared as the former New York mayor was publicly promoting himself to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.
And Mr. Trump has happily resumed control of his Twitter feed, using it to bash targets in the news media and criticize the cast of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” for imploring Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience Friday night, to govern on behalf of all Americans.
The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) Nov. 19, 2016
As a parade of job seekers, TV talking heads and statesmen like Henry Kissinger paraded through the lobby of Trump Tower this past week, Mr. Trump ran his presidential transition from his triplex on the 58th floor much the way he ran his campaign and his business before that — schmoozing, rewarding loyalty, fomenting infighting among advisers and moving confidently forward through a series of fits and starts.
President Obama, who met with Mr. Trump two days after the election, has held out hope that the gravity of the presidency will change the former reality show star. But people close to the 70-year-old president-elect say that he has such long-held habits formed by fame, wealth and the freedom to have done whatever he wanted that they remain skeptical, at least for now, that he will transform to fit the constraints of the White House.
“The presidency may change him eventually, but it’s not going to change him initially,” said Barry Bennett, a former senior adviser to the Trump campaign and a Republican strategist. “He’s a man who likes a lot of input from a lot of people, and he’s someone who has an incredible instinct for the American people.”
People close to Mr. Trump nonetheless say he is more focused now than he was in the first few days after his surprise victory. He was nervous and jolted, they said, by the 90-minute Oval Office meeting with Mr. Obama, and for the first time appeared to take in the enormousness of the job.
He is proud, they say, that he has so rapidly named people for his cabinet and senior staff, including a group of hawks and hard-line loyalists: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama as attorney general, Michael T. Flynn as national security adviser, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas as director of the C.I.A., and Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, as chief strategist.
“Ahead of schedule, under budget, high energy, trust and loyalty — there’s just a pattern to the whole thing,” said Richard F. Hohlt, a longtime Republican consultant in Washington. “That’s his mark of success.”
Loyalty, however, goes only so far.
There were initial reports from senior officials within Mr. Trump’s orbit that Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s most fervent supporter in the campaign’s final weeks, was the leading candidate for secretary of state. But the headlines about Mr. Giuliani’s business interests bothered Mr. Trump, who was urged by several business leaders and some media hosts to reconsider the option. Suddenly, he arranged a Saturday meeting with one of his fiercest critics, Mitt Romney, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.
Transition officials say the meeting with Mr. Romney, a moderate Republican who was the party’s nominee for president in 2012, may not have been simply for show. They say that Mr. Trump believes that Mr. Romney, with his patrician bearing, looks the part of a top diplomat right out of “central casting” — the same phrase Mr. Trump used to describe Mike Pence before choosing him as his running mate.
Yet Mr. Trump loves the tension and drama of a selection process, and has sought to stoke it. A senior adviser described the meeting, in part, as Mr. Romney simply coming to pay his respects to the president-elect and “kiss his ring.”
Mr. Trump, who has been known to act precipitously against people who have not pleased him, did so again this past week when he removed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, another longtime loyalist, as the head of his transition. People close to Mr. Trump say that, among other concerns, he determined that Mr. Christie had to go after two former top aides were convicted by a federal jury on all charges stemming from a 2013 scheme to close access lanes at the George Washington Bridge to punish a New Jersey mayor who declined to endorse Mr. Christie for re-election. And Mr. Trump was angered when Mr. Christie did not defend him after 11-year-old audio emerged of the candidate boasting about committing sexual assaults.
Mr. Trump also likes to surprise, and enjoys the worldwide speculation he sets off with his Twitter posts. And after he became upset by Mr. Giuliani’s headlines, his aides leaked the news that he was considering Gov. Nikki R. Haley of South Carolina for secretary of state — speculation that has since faded as Mr. Romney’s prospects have risen.
Showmanship remains central to Mr. Trump, who on Thursday held his first meeting as president-elect with a foreign leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. The setting was Mr. Trump’s marble and gold, Louis XIV-style residence on the 58th floor, with sweeping views of New York and Central Park. Mr. Trump, with General Flynn at his side, sat next to Mr. Abe under an enormous crystal chandelier as Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, looked on. . .
I think Trump was upset by the cast’s message to Pence because Pence is his VP, so it’s as if they sent the message to Trump (since everything is always about him), and was upset by the discourtesy of implication that his administration might not govern on behalf of all the people (though of course that has been the specific content, such as it was, of his entire campaign: some people are no good: journalists, immigrants (excepting, one assumes, his wife), Hillary Clinton, people with disabilities, and so on). Also, Pence got some headlines. That was discourteous, and Donald Trump is punctilious about insisting on courtesy (in-bound only) if not deference. “Kiss the ring” indeed!