This article has been updated.
It’s hard to see how July could have gone much worse for President Trump.
It was revealed that, contrary to his repeated insistence, his son had been tipped off about Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 election — and had embraced those efforts with open arms. Trump signed no new legislation, and saw his main policy focus, health care, collapse yet again on Capitol Hill. He lost his press secretary after hiring a controversial new communications director, and then enjoyed the spectacle of that new hire giving a remarkably vulgar on-record interview to a reporter about his chief of staff, who resigned the next day. Trump traveled to Europe to meet with other world leaders, and returned home to unflattering reviews of his conversation with Vladimir Putin. The one that the White House told reporters about, that is.
But the month wasn’t a total wash! Trump managed to squeeze in at least eight rounds of golf over the course of July and, with the exception of one Saturday he was stuck flying back from Europe, hit up one of his personal businesses on every single weekend day. Silver linings to clouds, etc.
As of July 31, Trump’s visited his own properties on 57 of the 193 days he’s been president, a rate of once every 3.4 days. He’s played golf once every 5.7 days — or, at least, that’s what we assume, since the administration never actually admits he’s playing golf. Sometimes, as he did on Sunday, Trump will simply head from the White House to his golf club in Sterling, Va., for four hours or so and not tell the press what he’s doing. Occasionally, photos will leak on social media of Trump on the links or some other person will admit to being part of Trump’s foursome, but the administration likes to keep it vague, apparently so that they can pretend that maybe he was actually just in meetings.
Update: For example! After this article was posted, someone sent in social-media evidence of Trump playing golf on July 22. We’ve added it to the graphic and updated our numbers throughout.
On nearly half the days that Trump wasn’t overseas in July, Trump visited one of his properties, a higher rate than any other month. The only month in which Trump visited his own properties as much as he did in July was in February, but he played golf less frequently then. When Trump returned from Europe early this month, he didn’t even bother going back to the White House, heading directly to his club in New Jersey to watch the U.S. Women’s Open. Had that event not been happening (and if it hadn’t rained last Saturday), it’s safe to assume that his golf tallies would have been higher. (In lieu of golf on Saturday, he swung by his D.C. hotel.)
Play the game: Where was Trump that day?
Why does this matter? Trump fans will ask. For a few reasons.
First of all, it matters because Trump repeatedly insisted on the campaign trail that he would play little to no golf as president, since he’d be so busy. (He repeatedly berated President Barack Obama for playing golf; Obama played at a rate of once every 8.8 days. Trump’s playing at a rate of once every 5.7 days.) It matters that Trump’s communications team won’t simply admit that he’s spending a lot of time playing golf, which they likely don’t do because of those campaign-trail pledges, but which they should because (1) it’s obvious and (2) it’s generally preferable for a president not to hide his actions from the public.
Second of all, it matters that Trump goes to properties that are owned by his private business because each of those trips serves as a de facto ad for the property, leveraging Trump’s official position on behalf of his private interests. What’s more, those trips cost the public a lot of money. His jaunts to Mar-a-Lago cost $6.6 million just to protect the facility from the air and water. If he stays at the White House, those costs are simply part of the daily operation. There’s also likely some direct flow of money from the government to the Trump property (for rentals, etc.) but it’s not clear how much.
Third, it matters because it’s unusual for a president to spend so much time away from the White House doing non-president-related things. His calendar this month has been fairly sparse, but, in addition to hitting up his private golf clubs and his hotel, he’s also found a lot of time for watching television. This schedule is almost certainly tied into the paragraph with which this article began: Trump spent very little time cajoling Republican senators to vote for the party’s health-care bill and enough defected on it to give him a black eye.
He spent at least 24 hours playing golf. Did he spend that much time on health care? He spent a weekend literally just watching a golf tournament from inside a glass box at a course he owns. Couldn’t that time have been better used?
One can only wonder: If Trump spent more of his time doing the things one might expect of a president and less time on the putting green, would his July have been such a political disaster?