A startling portrayal of life at the White House under the Trump administration has begun to emerge, including the remarkable claim that his team “confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room”.
The report in the New York Times adds that, “Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit.”
Naturally, people immediately called to mind the Joe Biden memes that were doing the rounds in the run-up to Trump’s inauguration, with a former Biden aide giving a helpful pointer.
The New York Times has been enlisting the help of a host of insiders – “dozens of government officials, congressional aides, former staff members and other observers of the new administration, many of whom requested anonymity to build up a picture of life inside the new administration” - as Trump struggles to adapt to his new role; unsurprising, perhaps, given that he has zero experience of politics or public service.
Other highlights include:
-Trump watches TV in his bathrobe; he watches cable at night and during the day
-He has “trouble concentrating on policy memos”
-One former staff member likened the aggressive approach of the first two weeks to “D-Day, but said the president’s team had stormed the beaches without any plan for a longer war”
-He misses the feedback and validation of his fans and supporters, whom he saw on a daily basis on the campaign trail
-”With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself”
-He initially “believed the opening stages of his presidency were going well”
-Trump was not apparently fully aware of the details about the executive order he signed giving adviser Steve Bannon a seat on the National Security Council and is now angry about that
-He has renovated the furniture in the Oval Office, ordering that “four hardback chairs be placed in a semicircle around his Resolute Desk now heaped, in Trump Tower fashion, with memos and newspapers”
-”Visitors to the Oval Office say Mr. Trump is obsessed with the décor — it is both a totem of a victory that validates him as a serious person and an image-burnishing backdrop — so he has told his staff to schedule as many televised events in the room as possible”
-He – of course – has newly hung golden drapes, “which he told a recent visitor were once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt but in fact were patterned for Bill Clinton”. To choose them, he went through 17 different window covering options
-The only family photo in the Oval Office is a small black-and-white photograph his father, Frederick Christ Trump, on the shelf behind his desk
Naturally, Trump reached for Twitter to respond to the claims.
The ‘apology’ Trump referred to was this 13 November letter from the New York Times’ publisher and executive editor to its readers. It does not read in any way like any sort of apology.
Meanwhile, a further article takes a look at the botched raid in Yemen, which killed 30 civilians and one US Navy SEAL, while failing to kill its alleged target, al Qaeda leader Qassim al Rimi – the third most-wanted terrorist in the world.
While the White House insisted that the raid, Trump’s first operation as Commander in Chief, was “a successful operation by all standards”, the report paints a very different picture. The raid had been planned under Obama’s administration but, as he was advised to wait for a moonless night, it could not take place until Trump had taken over.
A White House insider told NBC News that Defence Secretary General “Mad Dog” Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, convinced Trump to sign off the operation by saying that it would be a “game-changer”, suggesting Barack Obama would never have had the courage to do it.
It reports that the “so-called "package" for the mission was larger than any counterterrorism strike since the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden” and its target was al-Rimi, despite the, erm, usually trustworthy press secretary Sean Spicer insisting that the raid was “highly successful”, refuting the idea that they were after al-Rimi, instead claiming that, "The goal of the raid was intelligence gathering and that's what we received and that's what we got and that's why we can deem it a success".
However, a senior intelligence official told NBC News that "almost everything went wrong", with the death of Chief Petty Officer William "Ryan" Owens, many more civilian deaths, including children, and the forced destruction of a $75m MV-22 Osprey aircraft.
al Rimi has since released a video taunting Mr Trump as a “fool”.