Trump Called National Security Adviser for Late-Night Economics Lesson: Report

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This former general knows a thing or two about economics, believe me. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Are the embarrassing tales constantly coming out of the Trump administration actually pleas for help? The Huffington Post notes that while aides gossiping with journalists about staffing or policy ideas they find questionable is nothing new, some of the leaks suggest people in the administration think their commander-in-chief is unfit for office.

“I’ve been in this town for 26 years. I have never seen anything like this,” said Eliot Cohen, a senior State Department official under President George W. Bush. “I genuinely do not think this is a mentally healthy president.”

The two new tidbits reported by the Huffington Post on Tuesday are odd, but no more alarming than the idea of the president wandering around the White House in a bathrobe and firing off tweets when he’s annoyed by something he sees on cable news. One White House aide says that since Trump doesn’t like reading long documents, memos are limited to one page with bullet points — and there can’t be more than nine bullets. The same aide says Trump has registered a complaint because the hand towels on Air Force One aren’t soft enough.

Then there’s this anecdote:

President Donald Trump was confused about the dollar: Was it a strong one that’s good for the economy? Or a weak one?

So he made a call ― except not to any of the business leaders Trump brought into hisadministration or even to an old friend from his days in real estate. Instead, he called his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, according to two sources familiar with Flynn’s accounts of the incident.

Flynn has a long record in counterintelligence but not in macroeconomics. And he told Trump he didn’t know, that it wasn’t his area of expertise, that, perhaps, Trump should ask an economist instead.

Trump was not thrilled with that response ― but that may have been a function of the time of day. Trump had placed the call at 3 a.m., according to one of Flynn’s retellings ― although neither the White House nor Flynn’s office responded to requests for confirmation about that detail.

There is one non-alarming explanation for the story. Later in the piece, Republican National Committee member Randy Evans, who worked for Newt Gingrich when he was House speaker, recalled how they used to deal with leaks.

Evans said at some point the White House will have to get serious about harmful leaks if they want to control their message, just as Gingrich’s office had to two decades ago. He described the method of intentionally releasing tidbits to various staffers to see what turned up in print. “If the administration gets serious about leaks, they’ll do the blue-dye test and find them,” Evans said.

Is it possible the crackdown is already under way? The idea that the president is pestering aides for late-night tutorials in subjects they know nothing about as part of an elaborate scheme to root out leakers is certainly preferable to the alternative.

Trump Asked National Security Adviser for Econ Tips: Report