The Slatest

Since Midterms, 60% of Trump’s Schedule Has Been “Executive Time,” According to Documents

President Donald Trump speaks on the telephone as he answers calls from people calling into the NORAD Santa tracker phone line in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on December 24, 2018.
President Donald Trump speaks on the telephone as he answers calls from people calling into the NORAD Santa tracker phone line in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. on December 24, 2018.
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

We already knew that President Donald Trump was fond of his “Executive Time,” that euphemism that John Kelly came up with when he was chief of staff to describe the unstructured time that the commander in chief uses to do everything from tweet, watch TV, and make phone calls, among other things. But schedules that were leaked to Axios show just how much those two words define the president’s day. Over the past three months, around 60 percent of the president’s time has been spent on “Executive Time.”

Axios retyped all the schedules, which cover almost every working day since the midterms, and posted them online. They reveal that out of the 502 hours and 55 minutes that were scheduled, 297 hours and 15 minutes were dedicated to “Executive Time.” Even the schedules may be a bit misleading though. For example, the schedules show that Trump, who gets up early, spends the first five hours of each day in “Executive Time.” But while the schedules say that Trump’s 8-to-11 a.m. “Executive Time” is spent in the Oval Office, sources say he is never there at the time. In reality, Trump is in the residence, “watching TV, reading the papers, and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.” Trump’s first meeting of the day is usually at 11 or 11:30 a.m.

White House officials insist that just because the time is unstructured doesn’t mean the president is relaxing. “He’s always calling people, talking to people,” a senior official said. “He’s always up to something; it’s just not what you would consider typical structure.” But experts say the way Trump chooses to organize his days is unprecedented. “The most important asset in any presidency is the president’s time,” Chris Whipple, who has studied presidential schedules, said. “And Trump is a guy who gives new meaning to the notion of an unstructured presidency.” Axios talked to aides of previous presidents who made it clear none of the commander in chief’s recent predecessors organized their days like this. Still, this type of structure is hardly new for Trump, who has long said that too much planning gets in the way of good ideas. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said as much in response to Axios, noting that the lack of structure was by design: “While he spends much of his average day in scheduled meetings, events, and calls, there is time to allow for a more creative environment that has helped make him the most productive President in modern history.”

Responding to the story, Madeleine Westerhout, a young White House aide who has been described as the “gatekeeper” to Trump, called the leak of schedules “a disgraceful breach of trust” and insisted that they don’t tell the whole story. “What these don’t show are the hundreds of calls and meetings @realDonaldTrump takes everyday,” she wrote on Twitter. “This POTUS is working harder for the American people than anyone in recent history.”