President Donald Trump has kept a low profile since the government shutdown began late Friday night, prompting some pundits to question when the president’s purported skills as a bargainer would come into play.
The Washington Post reported on Sunday that in fact, Trump is eager to jump into the fray, even as exhausted aides and advisers try to keep him from doing more damage.
White House advisers told the Post that Trump has been counseled to keep his head down so as not to get branded as the face of the shutdown — although polls show that he and the Republicans are taking the brunt of blame from the public.
White House chief of staff John Kelly, director of legislative affairs Marc Short, budget director Mick Mulvaney and others have cautioned Trump against appearing too ready to make a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
“Aides and advisers also reminded Trump of the perils of getting too deeply involved at this point, noting Congress is more unpopular than him and talking about some of the unpleasant experiences he has had negotiating with Capitol Hill,” wrote the Post‘s Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker.
“Privately, some of his closest advisers admit the president is an erratic dealmaker who can unexpectedly overturn negotiations like a flimsy coffee table,” the Post said.
Sources say Trump is “itching” to be involved, watching TV coverage of the shutdown obsessively and orchestrating media appearances by surrogates. He has managed to restrain himself on Twitter and let aides do the bulk of the talking over the weekend.
However, the president is nothing if not changeable and could be expected to rebel against his current level of message discipline at any time.
He has asked aides in recent days if they feel he’ll be blamed for the shutdown while simultaneously boasting that he’s handing the crisis better than then-President Barack Obama did in 2013.
Irritated at public perception that he’s not working, Trump released a series of official White House photos on Saturday, but they were promptly ridiculed.
“Trump’s desk was empty,” said the Post.