When a White House aide told President Trump on Thursday — for the third time — that he needed to wrap up an interview with the Wall Street Journal because there was “a Roosevelt Room full of people waiting,” Trump answered with a demand.
“Get me a list of those people,” the president said. “I'll see the level of it.”
Trump did not want to stop talking to the reporters. And unless he could be convinced that the meeting for which he was late to was really important, he wasn't going to.
“I do enjoy this,” he told the four Journal reporters assembled in the Oval Office.
“We'll do it — every month, we'll do one of these,” Trump added.
And he just kept going. He went on to talk about the likelihood of striking a deal with Democrats to grant permanent legal status to DACA recipients. He talked about his plan to spend about $1.8 trillion to improve the nation's roads and bridges. He talked about modernizing air-traffic control, about the recently passed Republican tax bill, about guarding against Russian meddling in this year's midterm elections, about retaining top advisers.
The image of Trump that emerges from a transcript of Thursday's 45-minute sit-down with reporters is of a president who would rather banter with the media than do his job.
Obviously a journalist isn't going to complain about extra time with an interview subject, but Trump's apparent reluctance to return to work Thursday reinforces a perception that the White House constantly tries to combat — that Trump is obsessed with press coverage and is sometimes disinterested in his official duties.
This was a major theme in Michael Wolff's “Fire and Fury,” the explosive book published last week, which Trump has called “untruthful,” “fake” and “phony.”
“Where past presidents might have spent portions of their day talking about the needs, desires, and points of leverage among various members of Congress, the president and [communications aide Hope] Hicks spent a great deal of time talking about a fixed cast of media personalities, trying to second guess the real agendas and weak spots among cable anchors and producers, and Times and Post reporters,” Wolff wrote.
The New York Times reported in December that “people close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television.”
Only a few hours before his interview with the Journal, Trump reacted on Twitter to a “Fox & Friends” segment, seemingly rethinking his support for a federal surveillance program because a commentator urged him to reconsider.
There is ample evidence of Trump's fixation on how the media covers him.
“All I'm asking is one thing,” Trump told the Journal reporters, as he extended the interview. “You know what I'm saying. It's very easy. Treat me fairly.”
Lobbying for “fair” coverage is nothing new, but on Thursday, Trump prioritized it over whatever was going on in the Roosevelt Room.