The Associated Press had an interesting report over the weekend on Donald Trump’s infamous July phone meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the contents of which are now the basis for an impeachment inquiry. But in the same article, the AP offered some notable behind-the-scenes details on the ways in which the White House prepares – or least tries to prepare – for these calls.
For example, there’s apparently a problem with Trump’s complete disinterest in preparing for important discussions.
One individual with firsthand knowledge of how the Trump calls with foreign leaders are handled said the president “hates” such “pre-briefs” and frequently has refused to do them. Trump doesn’t like written background materials either. […]
The person said a six-page pre-brief with attachments was once prepared for Trump before a call to a foreign leader. But that turned out to be too long, as did a single-page version. Preparing pre-brief note cards that offered about three talking points for Trump to make on a call was the norm.
This is, of course, unsettling, though it’s also consistent with everything we’ve learned about the president’s process. Trump can’t even be bothered to read his daily presidential intelligence briefing. Some aides have routinely found that “even a single page of bullet points” is too taxing for the president’s limited attention span. A Trump confidant said a couple of years ago, “I call the president the two-minute man. The president has patience for a half-page.”
The AP article went on to note that Trump has a habit of taking his note cards and ripping them up after his conversations. Since the Presidential Records Act still exists, White House aides have to “put the papers out on a table and tape them back together to preserve them as official presidential records.” This, too, is consistent with what we’ve heard before.
This tidbit from the AP report, however, was new to me: “Occasionally, while on the phone with foreign heads of state, Trump has handed the receiver to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, so she can talk with the leader.”
It’s hardly a secret that the American president holds his adult daughter in high regard. Earlier this year, Trump even offered Ivanka the opportunity to lead the World Bank – “she’s very good with numbers,” the president said – and possibly serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
But the fact remains that Ivanka Trump, before getting a powerful White House job, previously created a consumer fashion brand and made frequent appearances on her father’s reality show. As the New York Times noted over the weekend, “Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka has also retained a stake in the family business even as she serves as a White House adviser, and last year she received trademarks in China related to her separate fashion ventures. Her husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to the president, maintains a stake in his own family’s real estate business, which has received and sought funding from international sources as well.”
So why is it, exactly, that the Republican president “occasionally” has his daughter speak to world leaders?
Is it unreasonable to wonder how Republicans might react if President Hillary Clinton, after refusing to thoroughly prepare for meetings with international officials, occasionally handed the phone to Chelsea Clinton?