President Donald Trump pauses before signing an executive order about regulatory reform in the Oval Office of the White House February 24, 2017 in Washington, DC.
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Trump makes the case that he’s too busy for the Russia scandal

Updated

The Washington Post  reported this week on a “tense” meeting in early March between Special Counsel Robert Mueller and members of Donald Trump’s legal defense team. At issue was whether the president would cooperate with the investigation by answering questions.

When Trump’s lawyers said Trump has no obligation to do so, Mueller raised the prospect of subpoenaing the president. John Dowd, then Trump’s lead lawyer, reportedly responded, “This isn’t some game. You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”

Trump tweeted the attorney’s quote yesterday, adding, “With North Korea, China, the Middle East and so much more, there is not much time to be thinking about this, especially since there was no Russian ‘Collusion.’”

Yes, we’re apparently supposed to believe the president is simply too busy for distractions like these. There’s so much on Trump’s plate, he couldn’t possibly take the time to “think about” the scandal he finds himself tweeting about on a nearly daily basis.

The trouble is, we have a pretty good sense of this president’s work ethic, and “busy” isn’t necessarily the first word that comes to mind. I’m reminded of this Axios report from January.

President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11am, and holding far fewer meetings, according to copies of his private schedule shown to Axios. This is largely to meet Trump’s demands for more “Executive Time,” which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us.

The schedule says Trump has “Executive Time” in the Oval Office every day from 8am to 11am, but the reality is he spends that time in his residence, watching TV, making phone calls and tweeting. Trump comes down for his first meeting of the day, which is often an intelligence briefing, at 11am.

This president’s typical work day in the Oval Office reportedly starts around 11 a.m., and wraps up at 6 p.m., at which point Trump likes to return to the White House residence, where much of his time is devoted to watching television.

The Axios piece added that Trump used to have fuller days, but he “didn’t like the longer official schedule.”

Of course, there are also plenty of days in which the president isn’t in the White House. Trump makes plenty of time for golf, flights to his private clubs, and occasional campaign rallies.

If his point is that Americans should be impressed by his heavy work load, we already know this president likes to take it easy. If his point is that he doesn’t have time to talk to Mueller and federal investigators, that’s wrong, too.

What’s more, in 1997, when the U.S. Supreme Court was weighing whether then-President Bill Clinton could be forced to deal with a civil case, then-Justice Antonin Scalia Justice Antonin Scalia said he did not find it “terribly persuasive” that the president was too busy. As the Washington Post reported at the time, the conservative jurist noted that the president can delegate duties and remarked that he had seen “presidents riding horseback, chopping wood … playing golf. … This notion that he doesn’t have a minute to spare isn’t credible.”

Given Donald Trump’s work habits, it’s even less credible now.