Apparently President Trump was not driven to reduce his unstructured “Executive Time” by negative reports that emerged last year about it, as a new report, based on leaked schedules, reveals that Trump spent about 60 percent of the last three months in “Executive Time”. That percentage, mind you, is based only on his officially scheduled time during the day. Most days of the last three months, Trump, according to Axios, has spent the first five hours of his day in “Executive Time”, where he watches television news, tweets, reportedly also reads newspapers, and reacts to what he sees and reads by phoning aides and officials and doing more tweeting. Based on previous reports about Trump’s penchant for TV news, especially Fox News, and dislike for reading it seems likely that more of this time is spent watching TV and much less on reading newspapers.
A White House source leaked Trump’s schedules from November 7, the day after the midterms, through Friday, February 1, to Axios, which published the schedules and an analysis thereof, with the schedules reformatted so as not to reveal their source in the White House. The schedules will often show Trump as having some of that morning “Executive Time” in the Oval Office from 8AM-11AM, but six sources confirmed to Axios that Trump actually remains in the residence rather than being in the Oval Office during that time, with his first meetings of the day usually not until 11 or 11:30 AM. According to The Hill:
President Trump has spent about 60 percent of his time over the past three months in “Executive Time,” according to leaked schedules obtained by Axios...Trump’s first meeting of the day typically doesn’t come until 11 or 11:30 a.m. and is typically an intelligence briefing or a half-hour meeting with his chief of staff, a schedule Axios also reported last year. Trump has been criticized for his use of “Executive Time” in the past, including by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). Axios reported that “Executive Time” is particularly dominant on some days. The report notes that on Jan. 18, he had hour hour of scheduled meetings and seven hours of “Executive Time.” Chris Whipple, who studies presidential schedules, told Axios “there’s almost no [historical] parallel” for how Trump spends most of his days. “The most important asset in any presidency is the president’s time,” Whipple added. “And Trump is a guy who gives new meaning to the notion of an unstructured presidency.”
“Executive Time” was a term introduced by former White House chief of staff John Kelly after Trump objected to having a more structured schedule; it is a catchall for Trump’s unstructured time during the day, which appears to be quite plentiful. Axios indicated in their report that Trump may sometimes have meetings during his “Executive Time” that are not on this schedule, either because they are impromptu or they appear only on a more detailed schedule that has a much smaller audience in order to avoid leaks of information. So, with the available information, the report could not quantify the extent to which a few extra meetings may cut into this “Executive Time”.
When asked for a response to Axios’ story, the White House glossed over the issue in order to give their usual pile of praise for Trump. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded, according to Axios, “While he spends much of his average day in scheduled meetings, events, and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive President in modern history.” By what standard, exactly, would Trump be considered the “most productive President in modern history”? Huckabee gave no such standard.
Meanwhile, other reports have emerged that even in the limited time that Trump is in meetings, specifically in intelligence briefings, his attention wanders despite the best efforts of briefers to provide visual aids, shorten their points to just a few sentences each, and use Trump’s name and title repeatedly to get his attention. Trump spending hours every day watching Fox News and then either not paying attention or denying what he hears during his half hour daily intelligence briefings explains a lot about the slant away from reality and toward what he wants to believe that we often see with Trump.