By any standard, Donald Trump’s impromptu interview with The New York Times at his golf club in West Palm Beach was a dumpster fire. It was overflowing with blatant lies and misleading statements. For instance, he claimed that any talk of collusion between Russia and his campaign has been knocked down, and that a number of Democrats have actually stated there was no collusion. He then went from the blatantly false to the frightening by saying that he alone controls the Justice Department–and the investigation into Russia’s effort to hack the election.
All of this has a number of people asking whether the man currently occupying the White House is mentally stable.
The more I think about this interview the more shaken I get that Donald Trump has control over America's nuclear arsenal.
The most powerful man in the world is confused, delusional, or a liar, with truly authoritarian instincts. This is dangerous.https://t.co/4wdtru0Qwy
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) December 29, 2017
I ask again: at what point is it fair for the American people to inquire as to the health of the president? If he is indeed in cognitive decline, he can be taken advantage of – by Republicans, yes, but also by powers who wish us ill. Time to discuss it. https://t.co/ODtmTyvPab
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) December 29, 2017
Just read NYT interview with DT. We have a sick ignoramus running this country. The fact that intelligent citizens have to live with his moronic pathologically lying behavior is completely unacceptable. We must do all we can to protect Democracy and rid the US of this fool.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) December 29, 2017
Incoherent, authoritarian, uninformed: Trump’s New York Times interview is a scary read https://t.co/RwWewXtzPV
— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) December 30, 2017
But it turns out that the media and the general public weren’t the only ones rolling their eyes at this interview. According to The Washington Post, so were a number of White House staffers.
It turns out that Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of right-wing media company Newsmax, set up the interview himself. Ruddy is a member of Trump International Golf Club West Palm Beach, and invited Times reporter Michael Schmidt to have lunch there on Thursday. Ruddy then arranged to get a table near Trump’s normal table, and arranged for Schmidt to meet Trump just as he came off the course.
All of this happened with no advance word to Washington, or any input from White House staffers. A few staffers found out about the interview, and arranged for communications chief Hope Hicks to listen in on the interview by phone. Most, however, didn’t hear about it until the story went live on Thursday night.
It’s not the first time that White House staffers have found themselves shaking their heads at what their boss does in the Palm Beaches. He sees the Beaches–especially Mar-a-Lago–as a place to recharge. However, it is also a lot harder to control his access to information, as well as access to him.
Specifically, staffers are concerned that members at both Trump International and Mar-a-Lago could try to take advantage of Trump. According to one former official, “anyone who can get within eyesight changes the game.” Shannon Donnelly, the society editor of the Palm Beach Daily News, said that access to Trump has tightened somewhat since he became president. The only way you can talk to him is if “he sees you and motions for you to come over for him.”
Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone says that Mar-a-Lago “allows Trump to be Trump,” and can get “a lot of information that is normally blocked from getting to him.” Believe it or not, that doesn’t result in an uptick of unhinged tweets. According to one aide, when Trump is in Florida, he doesn’t get nearly as steamed by the news as he does in Washington.
At the same time, though, this interview allowed White House staffers to see the true nature of their boss when they don’t have him on a leash. One has to wonder if they, like the rest of us, are wondering if their boss is mentally well.
(featured image courtesy Christine Davis, available under a Creative Commons BY-SA license)