To hear President Trump tell it, no president has ever worked harder than he does. It may sound as if we are being hyperbolic in framing his comments that way, but we’re quoting him.
It was the second time in recent days that Trump has insisted upon how hard he works, a function of Axios having twice obtained detailed copies of his schedules in which large blocks of time are segmented for “executive time,” a catchall phrase for Trump’s time watching cable news shows, offering up tweets, making calls related to the presidency, having informal or unscheduled meetings, and checking in with friends and allies.
That may seem a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde-y: The same expression is used to cover Trump’s morning Twitter time as his informal meeting time in the afternoon? As we noted last week when the first schedules leaked, yes. It appears, in fact, to be an intentional conflation, with the White House insisting that Trump’s executive time is dedicated work time to excuse the fact that his mornings are often demonstrably spent watching a lot of television.
To excuse the fact, in other words, that Trump’s days don’t seem to start until 11 a.m.
Let’s look at last week, for which Axios published schedules on Sunday. Here’s every 15-minute block, with Trump’s listed activities and the tweets he sent during these hours.
This was a busy week, with the State of the Union address on Tuesday and the National Prayer Breakfast on Friday, each of which increased Trump’s time demands. Still, much of his time was unscheduled “executive time.”
It was also a week in which Trump tweeted less frequently than he usually does. He had fewer weekday tweets last week than nearly any other week since last spring.
Nonetheless, in his Tuesday executive time and his Thursday time before departing for, and while at, the venue for the National Prayer Breakfast, Trump stayed true to form and sent a slew of tweets.
Between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., which might be described as Trump’s typical workday, his tweets were fairly anodyne, relating to national events or announcements he was making. Not always, though: During his State of the Union preparation time Tuesday, a tweet was sent from his account featuring an image of the Drudge Report and expressing that he was looking forward to the night’s speech.
The striking thing about his schedule, though, is how, once again, his days get a late start. One of the tweets Tuesday, for example, was linked by journalist Matt Gertz to a segment on “Fox and Friends,” Trump’s frequent early morning companion in the White House. Over all of the days for which Axios obtained Trump’s schedule, about half of Trump’s tweets were sent before 11 a.m. and half over the entire rest of the day.
On nine of the 67 days for which they obtained a schedule was there anything besides “executive time” slotted before 11 a.m.
On days when Trump’s schedule begins at 11, about 50 percent of his tweets came before that time. On days when his schedule began before 11 a.m., 45 percent of his tweets came before 11 a.m. anyway — in part because those pre-11 a.m. days often started at 10 a.m. or so.
It’s hard to gauge how much work Trump does during his executive time, because it is unscheduled and mostly unrecorded, even within the broader White House. (There is apparently a more detailed schedule given to a small group of staffers.) This White House is also more reluctant than past administrations to share information about what the president is doing; we’ve learned about calls with foreign leaders from foreign media before the White House has offered any updates.
All of this is by design, allowing Trump to make claims about how much he works by masking his leisure time under the rubric of “executive time.” We can’t say with certainty that Trump isn’t having important phone calls with foreign leaders for hours on end before heading down to the Oval Office each day, so we’re asked to assume that he is.
The only problem is all of those pre-11 a.m. tweets, such as the one that preceded his insistence about how hard he was working by two minutes.
Trump was watching a recording of Fox News programming and quoted it in a tweet for all of his followers. At 8 a.m., though, he no doubt put his nose right on that grindstone.