To hear President Donald Trump tell it, he is the hardest working president in the history of the United States: “No president ever worked harder than me (cleaning up the mess I inherited)!”, he tweeted on Monday.
But his leaked schedules reveal a different story, one that Trump was seeking to muddle with that early morning tweet — the second time this week that he attempted to do so.
According to The Washington Post, the president’s schedules show that Trump spends an outsized portion of his day enjoying “executive time”, and on average, the hours of 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. appear to comprise his workday.
The Post noted that Trump’s recent Twitter defense of his work ethic are “a function of Axios having twice obtained detailed copies of his schedules in which large blocks of time are segmented for “executive time”.
And what exactly is “executive time”? It is “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.
The Post goes on to demonstrate the correlation between Trump’s executive time and his tweeting habits, noting that on average, half of the president’s tweets are issued during that time, while the other half are strewn throughout the remainder of the day.
Why might the White House characterize the president’s schedule this way, using “executive time” to cover all manner of activities?
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.