Despite Bedminster stay, no unplugging for Trump

Trump mixing work with play
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Story highlights

  • "This is not a vacation -- meetings and calls," Trump tweeted
  • Trump is in the middle of a 17-day vacation in New Jersey

Bridgewater, New Jersey (CNN)President Donald Trump broke the mold as a presidential candidate. And as a vacationing commander in chief, he's doing the same.

Trump is in the middle of a 17-day vacation, fleeing the humid confines of Washington as the White House undergoes extensive renovations to play golf, meet with friends and air his grievances on Twitter, all within the limits of his sprawling golf club in suburban New Jersey.
But don't call it a vacation, say White House aides. Trump is talking to aides and receiving regular briefings even as he temporarily resides 170 miles north of the White House, they said.
    "This is not a vacation -- meetings and calls," Trump tweeted as his vacation got underway.
    Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted Tuesday that Trump spoke with House Speaker Paul Ryan about health care and tax reform on Monday. The White House press secretary also told CNN the President also spoke with Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Thom Tillis.
    The message: The President is hard at work.
    Vacation for Trump is a complicated subject given his lengthy and direct criticism of President Barack Obama for taking time away from the White House. Lest he be called a hypocrite, Trump has fought any insinuation, especially from Democrats or the media, that his time away is a reprieve.
    But there are few indications that Trump is trying to unplug and decompress in New Jersey. He is still lashing out at his opponents, still receiving his presidential daily briefing and still holding meetings with Cabinet secretaries. But videos on social media have also shown the President golfing at his private club and many of his closest aides, including his family members, have joined him in New Jersey.
    See Trump's small-town summer White House
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    Longtime Trump friends say Trump rarely, if ever, fully unplugs. For years, the then-real estate magnate worked in the same building where he lived, and would often take his work him with him up the elevator from his office to his penthouse apartment at Trump Tower. Those habits, said one friend, have followed him into the White House, where Trump is often near a television with news on and always eager to tweet out a message.
    "I've got bad news for the coup plotters," a friend joked. "President Trump never unplugs."
    After spending the weekend golfing, Trump sent 13 tweets as the rain pounded his golf club on Monday, slamming the "fake news media," honoring Purple Heart recipients and attacking Sen. Richard Blumenthal after he criticized the President on CNN.
    Unlike past presidents, who openly vacationed while in office, Trump has looked to obscure his time away. On Tuesday, Trump was briefed on the opioid crisis by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Richard Baum.
    Vacations have long been a presidential norm, with every world leader using time away to recoup from a famously trying job.
    Obama spent his summer vacations on Martha's Vineyard, where he rode bikes with his family, lounged at the beach and played a lot of golf.
    The White House made a habit of releasing the titles of the books he brought with him, usually a mix of thick biographies and literary fiction. Last year he read "The Girl on the Train" a few months before the film adaptation hit theaters.
    President George W. Bush also read on his summer vacations, and his aides revealed the titles to reporters who traveled with him to the scrubland around his Crawford, Texas, ranch. In the dusty August days of 2005, Bush tackled volumes about Alexander II, the history of plague, and the history of salt.
    The White House did not respond to a request for Trump's summer reading list, though he's declared before that he simply does not have time to pick up a book, despite loving to read.
    In the later years of Obama's Vineyard jaunts, the White House took to releasing what songs Obama and his family were playing at their secluded rental home -- divided, somewhat racily, into "daytime" and "evening" playlists.
    Trump's two predecessors have found that August amounted to a month of discontent for presidents attempting to decompress.
    Even as most Americans tune out news from Washington amid their own family vacations and back-to-school preparations, global crises and domestic disputes have tended to flare. Presidential responses have sometimes appeared lackluster -- and received widespread criticism.
    When then-nascent terror group ISIS beheaded American James Foley in 2014, Obama delivered a statement from a grade school cafeteria a mile from the Edgartown harbor and went directly to a round of golf.
    Bush had been vacationing in Crawford for almost a month when Hurricane Katrine collided with the Gulf Coast in 2005. He remained in Texas for two days before returning to Washington to triage a botched federal response.
    This year, Trump's aides have a made known that Trump is closely monitoring the tense situation in North Korea. They said he spoke for an hour Monday with his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is attending a summit of Asian leaders in the Philippines.