Donald Trump may be the most powerful man in the world, but there’s at least one group of people he hasn’t convinced to take him seriously: his own staff.
According to a new report in The Atlantic, Trump aides routinely ignore his most outlandish orders in hopes that the 72-year-old will forget about them and then get distracted by another shiny object.
As a recent example, The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott takes us back to late March, when Trump announced the end of aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. The next day, the State Department put out a statement affirming plans to cut off money to the Northern Triangle nations. There was just one problem — the White House had no plan. That’s not a surprise, because Trump’s plan to cut aid wasn’t a plan at all. It was an impulsive pronouncement that has already been forgotten in Washington.
A month and a half has passed since the president’s Central America announcement, and according to lawmakers and aides, the administration is not advancing the issue. Senator Patrick Leahy, who serves as the ranking member of the subcommittee that funds foreign aid, told me that this was the inevitable result of an “impulsive and illogical” decision by the president. “It caught the State Department and USAID by surprise, and they have been scrambling to figure out how to limit the damage it would cause,” Leahy said.
The playbook for dealing with Trump’s unexpected orders includes such moves as actually trying to implement them, feigning cooperation, and just totally ignoring the guy. Then, aides ignore reporters who come sniffing around, as Plott found when she asked questions about the two reviews of the Jussie Smollett case that Trump ordered on March 28.
This kind of treatment might enrage a normal president, who’d expect the simply dignity of being listened to. But Trump is far from normal and there may be no better illustration of that than his making big, splashy policy announcements and then totally forgetting about them.