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Why the White House openly mocked Trump's 'active imagination'

"Outside of his very active imagination," the White House said, "Donald Trump is no longer president and doesn't have any 'envoy ambassadors.'"
President Donald J. Trump
President Donald J. Trump walks to board Marine One and depart from the South Lawn at the White House on Feb 7, 2020.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Imagesfile

There was a strange moment in early August when former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows seemed to suggest that Donald Trump was still in a position of power and authority. In context, the North Carolina Republican appeared on a conservative media outlet and was asked about the former president's plans.

Meadows responded by describing Trump as "a president who is fully engaged, highly focused, and remaining on task." The former chief of staff added, in apparent reference to Trump and his team, "We met with several of our cabinet members tonight."

Note, this was in August 2021, not August 2020. As we discussed at the time, Meadows' comments appeared to describe some alternate reality in which Trump still had a post-presidency cabinet.

All of this came to mind again yesterday when the president issued a written statement, sharing some insights related to international affairs. It read in part:

"The great people of Serbia and Kosovo have overcome tremendous obstacles in their pursuit of economic normalization. The agreements my administration brokered are historic and should not be abandoned, many lives are at stake. The region is too important and the people have waited too long for this work to be cast aside. Today, my Envoy Ambassador Ric Grenell visited the Kosovo-Serbia border to highlight this important agreement."

First, there's no such thing as an "Envoy Ambassador."

Second, even if such a position existed within the United States' government, former presidents don't get their own international diplomatic teams.

Third, when Trump was in office and officials from the Obama administration met with foreign officials, Trump publicly characterized this as criminal activity — which he believed should be literally prosecuted by the Justice Department. Evidently, he's changed his mind.

But perhaps most memorably, the actual president's team found all of this worthy of a response. "Outside of his very active imagination, Donald Trump is no longer president and doesn't have any 'envoy ambassadors' representing the United States," a White House official said.

As a rule, President Joe Biden and his team say very little about their Republican predecessor. It was entertaining to see them make an exception.