Trump has been airing grievances and offering commentary on Twitter
But his public schedule has been empty for six days
President Donald Trump relishes booming rallies, embraces the art of the photo op and understands the power of an image perhaps more than any occupant of the Oval Office since Ronald Reagan.
But for the last five days, the once camera-happy President has been all but invisible.
Trump has been airing grievances and offering commentary on Twitter – much like he’s done for years before taking office – but his public schedule has been empty for five days and his bully pulpit has been unusually quiet so far this week.
In fact, since the day after his impromptu Rose Garden celebration alongside House lawmakers after the chamber passed health care reform bill, Trump’s been out of sight.
As he moves into the second phase of his first year in office, the hard work of governing is stacking up on the Resolute Desk. He’s facing decisions of life and death at the prospect of sending thousands more American troops to Afghanistan, even as he’s weighing far-reaching implications of whether to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and how to best get health care through a skeptical Senate.
The President is essentially boxed in from a variety of directions. His tax agenda has yet to be introduced in Congress. He’s keeping a hands-off approach – for now, at least – as the health care overhaul grinds through Capitol Hill. And, after pushing so many through during the week marking his first 100 days in office, Trump’s long list of executive orders has been exhausted for now.
“He’s at a point in his presidency where a photo op doesn’t cut it,” a Republican official who works closely with the White House told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the administration. “He’s facing a confluence of very hard decisions and they’re trying to keep him focused.”
That could weigh on Trump, whose love of the photo op was a hallmark of his fist 100 days in office.
During a series of events in the week leading up to Trump’s 100th day in office, the President seemed keenly aware of reporters and television cameras, inviting them into numerous events with the hopes that images of him doing things would convey action in Washington to his base supporters who want to see changes made.
Trump, more so than his predecessor, rarely went a day during his first months in office without inviting the media to cover a meeting with top business leaders or an executive order signing. The regular meetings even spurred parodies, with Trump’s habit of showing the cameras his signed executive order becoming omnipresent on the Internet.
Top White House aides even bragged about media access to the President.
“This is a President when it comes to accessibility and allowing the press access, I’ve heard from several of you (that) we’ve gone above and beyond allowing the press into events into sprays,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last month. “We’ve had greater access.”
He added: “We have a pretty good track record of making the President available to folks.”
But Trump’s last public event was five days ago in New York, when he met with Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull and spoke at an event commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. Since then, though, the only view of Trump has been getting on an off Air Force One, with his meetings occurring entirely behind closed doors.
“Americans have had no better friends than the Australians,” Trump said aboard the USS Intrepid in New York. “I mean that.”
After that speech, Trump retired to his private golf club in Bedminister, New Jersey, where he had no public events and played golf for two days. Other golfers at the club captured the President hitting the links – and posted photos of him – but the President had no open events over the weekend.
The Trump blackout continued into this week, where Trump has kept a relatively light schedule out of the public eye.
Trump met with national security adviser HR McMaster, had lunch with Vice President Mike Pence and spoke with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday, according to his public schedule, but nothing was on camera.
Same story for Tuesday. Trump will spend the entire day behind closed doors.
Spicer said Tuesday that Trump is spending his time preparing to go on a eight-day international trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome, along with G-7 and NATO meetings in Europe.
“Part of the use of this week is to be meeting with the principals and the head of the directorates of the countries we are going to ahead of the meetings, where he’s receiving extensive briefings throughout the week with his team,” Spicer said.
He also noted that Trump is meeting regularly with McMaster, who he described as “one of the leaders in the effort for this trip.”
“This is an opportunity for him to get ahead of this first really long foreign trip to make sure that he is on a whole host of issues, whether it’s ISIS, whether our economic issues, trade issues, to make sure we go in there, strengthen our relationships, but also make sure we put America’s priorities first,” Spicer said.
This story has been updated