President Trump loves to set the day’s narrative at dawn, but the deeper story of his White House is best told at night.
Aides confer in the dark because they cannot figure out how to operate the light switches in the cabinet room. Visitors conclude their meetings and then wander around, testing doorknobs until finding one that leads to an exit. In a darkened, mostly empty West Wing, Mr. Trump’s provocative chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, finishes another 16-hour day planning new lines of attack.
Usually around 6:30 p.m., Mr. Trump retires upstairs to the residence to recharge, vent and intermittently use Twitter. With his wife, Melania, and young son, Barron, staying in New York, he is almost always by himself, sometimes in the protective presence of his imposing longtime aide and former security chief, Keith Schiller. When Mr. Trump is not watching television in his bathrobe or on his phone reaching out to old campaign hands and advisers, he will sometimes set off to explore the unfamiliar surroundings of his new home.
It gets better
Cloistered in the White House, he now has little access to his fans and supporters — an important source of feedback and validation — and feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests, one of the reasons he was forced to scrap a planned trip to Milwaukee last week. For a sense of what is happening outside, he watches cable, both at night and during the day — too much in the eyes of some aides — often offering a bitter play-by-play of critics like CNN’s Don Lemon.
Until the past few days, Mr. Trump was telling his friends and advisers that he believed the opening stages of his presidency were going well. “Did you hear that, this guy thinks it’s been terrible!” Mr. Trump said mockingly to other aides when one dissenting view was voiced last week during a West Wing meeting.
But his opinion has begun to change with a relentless parade of bad headlines.
Mr. Trump got away from the White House this weekend for the first time since his inauguration, spending it in Palm Beach, Fla., at his private club, Mar-a-Lago, posting Twitter messages angrily — and in personal terms — about the federal judge who put a nationwide halt on the travel ban. Mr. Bannon and Reince Priebus, the two clashing power centers, traveled with him.
By then, the president, for whom chains of command and policy minutiae rarely meant much, was demanding that Mr. Priebus begin to implement a much more conventional White House protocol that had been taken for granted in previous administrations: From now on, Mr. Trump would be looped in on the drafting of executive orders much earlier in the process.
Another change will be a new set of checks on the previously unfettered power enjoyed by Mr. Bannon and the White House policy director, Stephen Miller, who oversees the implementation of the orders and who received the brunt of the internal and public criticism for the rollout of the travel ban.
Mr. Priebus has told Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon that the administration needs to rethink its policy and communications operation in the wake of embarrassing revelations that key details of the orders were withheld from agencies, White House staff and Republican congressional leaders like Speaker Paul D. Ryan.
Also, Mr. Priebus has created a 10-point checklist for the release of any new initiatives that includes signoff from the communications department and the White House staff secretary, Robert Porter, according to several aides familiar with the process.
Wait for it.
Mr. Trump remains intensely focused on his brand, but the demands of the job means he spends less time monitoring the news media — although he recently upgraded the flat-screen TV in his private dining room so he can watch the news while eating lunch.
He often has to wait until the end of the workday before grinding through news clips with Mr. Spicer, marking the ones he does not like with a big arrow in black Sharpie — though he almost always makes time to monitor Mr. Spicer’s performance at the daily briefings, summoning him to offer praise or criticism, a West Wing aide said.
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.
To pass the time between meetings, Mr. Trump gives quick tours to visitors, highlighting little tweaks he has made after initially expecting he would have to pay for them himself.
Flanking his desk are portraits of Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, a recently acquired personal hero often cited by Mr. Bannon. He will linger on the opulence of the newly hung golden drapes, once used by Franklin D. Roosevelt — for a man who sometimes has trouble concentrating on policy memos, Mr. Trump was delighted to page through a book that offered him 17 window covering options.
Trump is playing a role, that of President Trump with really no idea of what it means and his actions are having on people. That and from other reports you realize that Jared Kushner is more concerned with his brand and standing than the President he should be serving.