President Trump’s schedule is so packed amid the coronavirus crisis that he sometimes skips lunch, his aides told The Post — refuting a report that the commander-in-chief spends his days obsessing over TV coverage and eating fries.
White House staffers said the president works around the clock and can make five dozen work-related calls a day during the pandemic.
“I can tell you that the biggest concern I have as a new chief of staff is making sure he gets some time to get a quick bite to eat,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told The Post.
He said that Trump recently called him at 3:19 a.m. He wasn’t expecting the call and was asleep when the phone rang.
“I can tell you that he will go back in and have a lunch just off the Oval Office and more times than not it is interrupted by several phone calls,” Meadows said. “If he gets more than 10 minutes of time in a given day I haven’t seen in the five weeks I’ve been here.”
A different White House official said that Trump, some days, doesn’t eat lunch.
“There are times when lunch isn’t even a thought,” the official said. “A lot of time there’s either no time for lunch or there is 10 minutes for lunch.”
An account in The New York Times that claimed Trump lingers in his bedroom as late as noon infuriated the president, who tweeted Sunday, “I will often be in the Oval Office late into the night & read & see that I am angrily eating a hamburger & Diet Coke in my bedroom.”
“I work from early in the morning until late at night,” the president tweeted.
Another White House official provided The Post with data on recent presidential phone calls, which they said attest to his packed schedule.
On Wednesday, Trump made about two dozen morning calls starting with a conversation around 6:30 a.m. with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, according to the official.
On Thursday morning, Trump made 18 work-related calls from his private quarters, including four to foreign leaders, which can be lengthy due to translation and a broad range of topics. On Friday, he began the day with another four calls with foreign leaders.
Trump returned to the White House residence at 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the official. On Thursday night, he made 11 work calls. On Wednesday night, he was calling until 11:30 p.m. and spoke with a governor, a senator and a congressman.
Trump has meetings and calls during his time in the Oval Office. On Thursday, he took nearly three dozen calls.
“He’ll call up until late evening or midnight on a fairly regular basis,” Meadows said.
At night, “normally he will get six or seven calls from members [of Congress] or business leaders or community leaders, so oftentimes what he will do is go up to the residence and have the White House operator literally do back to back calls,” Meadows said.
If Trump has something on his mind, he prefers to call right away. “When he calls in the evening or the early morning it’s really with a pressing issue that demands immediate action,” Meadows said.
Morning phone calls from the residence are routine for Trump.
“I get phone calls from him early in the morning and at the end of the day,” said Peter Navarro, director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy.
“I put in probably 12 hour days seven days a week and he runs circles around me,” Navarro said. “He never seems to tire. So this idea that he’s not working hard is just so absurd. Note to the New York Times: spending time in the morning reading all of the material that’s given to him by his staff secretary, as well as virtually all of the newspapers, that’s work. That’s not kicking back with a croissant.”
Trump largely has been confined to the White House since COVID-19 triggered widespread business closures and halted his extensive travel. Now, public engagements are limited to press briefings and less frequent televised pool sprays with reporters in the West Wing and on the White House grounds.
Officials don’t dispute that Trump often has a TV screen on during the day, but said that’s a reasonable thing to do. They also do not deny that the president powers through the day on Diet Coke.
Trump monitoring TV news coverage “is like a linebacker watching tape,” the first official said. “How else are we going to know what’s being said and what’s being reported out there?”
Trump’s schedule generally is grueling for reporters and officials whose personal lives are tied to his activities. On Easter, for example, Trump was working in the Oval Office to broker an oil production agreement between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
“We watch him work and work and work, and we get frustrated by the inaccurate coverage, which does not reflect the hard work and leadership we witness every day,” the second official said.
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