Between Bob Woodward’s new book and the anonymous New York Times op-ed last week from a senior administration official, it’s clear that many in Donald Trump’s orbit disregard his orders. It’s not how the presidency is supposed to work, but in this White House, some officials reportedly see the insubordination as a necessity.
Indeed, the Washington Post noted the other day that when Reince Priebus was Trump’s chief of staff, the president would direct him to fire someone or implement a specific policy. Priebus would pretend to go along, but tell Trump it would happen “next week.” By that point, “Trump often would have forgotten” about the instructions.
What’s less understood is how long people in Trump’s orbit have been doing the same thing. The New York Daily News published an op-ed yesterday from Barbara Res, who was a Trump Organization executive for nearly two decades, and who admitted that she learned to ignore some of his worst orders.
He would say whatever came into his head. Ordering an underling to do something that was impossible gave Trump the opportunity to castigate a subordinate and also blame him for anything that “went wrong” in connection with the unperformed order later. A Trump-style win-win.
Trump did this with outrageous or just plain stupid ideas, both legal and illegal. Sometimes those lines were blurred.
When he asked me to do something that could not be done, I often fought back, but always at a cost. Sometimes, I just did what he asked, planning for the necessary fix or damage control later.
But many times, I played along with him and then didn’t carry out his order.
Res shared an especially striking anecdote about an architect who showed him plans for an elevator’s interior – and the future president’s opposition to braille being included alongside the buttons.
Reminded of legal requirements under the Americans With Disabilities Act, Trump, according to Res’ version of events, yelled, “Get rid of the (expletive) braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower. Just do it.”
The architect, Res said, later resigned.
As best as I can tell, the claims in the op-ed haven’t been independently verified. They do, however, seem quite believable in light of everything we’ve seen and heard from this president.
“Trump is really not all that different now,” Res added, “but the stakes are higher.”