Early morning in the White House and a bulky, dressing gown-clad figure can be seen padding out of the master bedroom, clutching his iPhone in one hand and a can of Diet Coke in the other. Another day is starting for the Leader of the Free World.
Donald Trump has been awake since 5.30am, propped up on pillows in bed and flipping between America’s three 24-hour news channels (CNN, MSNBC and his beloved and supportive Fox News) as he searches incessantly for coverage of himself and inspiration for his tweets.
Once he’s sufficiently fired up, he may trot down the corridor to the ornate Treaty Room, where generations of presidents have signed treaties or — in wartime — read decyphered enemy communications,
Here he gets down to the important task of decyphering exactly what ‘fake news’ the media is saying about him and planning how to retaliate. He’ll make calls or dispatch his not-so presidential early-morning tweets, perhaps calling North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ‘short and fat’ or retweeting the anti-Muslim hate messages of a Far Right British nationalist group.
Revelations: Donald Trump tucked in to a bucket of KFC chicken on his jet last year and posted the image on Twitter
President Trump will probably end his day in front of the TV, too, either in bed or in the den next door. He is said to spend on average at least four hours — and sometimes as much as eight — in front of a TV screen.
Yesterday, Mr Trump rejected news reports of his gargantuan viewing habits as ‘another false story’. Taking to Twitter, he wrote: ‘Another false story… that I watch 4-8 hours of television a day — Wrong! Also, I seldom, if ever, watch CNN or MSNBC, both of which I consider Fake News.’
Little more than a month away from the first anniversary of the Trump inauguration, the world is well aware that it is living through one of the most tumultuous presidencies ever. But what do we really know about the 71-year-old who appears to be running a superpower with super-charged bravado via Twitter?
New revelations from insiders in the Trump administration about the President’s day-to-day life on the campaign trail and since taking office suggest everything, from his diet to his understanding of his role, is even more bizarre and chaotic than we might have guessed.
To those who’ve observed that the Trump presidency so far is like some shocking if riveting piece of reality TV — that, amazingly, seems to have been the intention from the start. The former host of the U.S. version of The Apprentice once told his inner circle to think of each presidential day as an episode in a TV show in which he ‘vanquishes rivals’.
Mr Trump would never have run for the White House — or won — if he hadn’t become known to Middle America on The Apprentice. So it’s not surprising he remains in awe of small-screen power.
TV provides the ammunition for what he tweets and he has a rule that nobody touches the remote control apart from him and his tech team. He even has a 60in TV switched on during meetings in the White House dining room.
The volume may be muted, but insiders — the New York Times quizzed 60 advisers, friends and colleagues to build up a picture of the President’s life — say he’s constantly monitoring scrolling headlines. And he’ll let rip about what he’s watching to anyone present, even household staff whom he summons by pressing a button to bring him his lunch or one of the 12 cans of Diet Coke he is said to drink a day.
His goal is to keep his name in the headlines. A former adviser recalled Mr Trump growing ‘uncomfortable’ after two or three days in which he wasn’t in the news. And the moment he sees anyone on TV saying something nice about him, he’s guaranteed to tweet about it.
However, aware that it doesn’t exactly burnish his credentials as a serious leader, Mr Trump is sensitive about his viewing habits.
Donald Trump (pictured on Monday) rejected news reports of his gargantuan viewing habits as ‘another false story’
He recently insisted he spends time ‘reading documents a lot’. He struggles with detail, though, once noting: ‘Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.’
Trump’s eccentricities were, aides claim, evident from the start, as he hurtled around the U.S. on the campaign trail in his luxurious — if bling is your thing — $100 million, private Boeing 757 with Elton John hits pumping out at ear-splitting volume from the sound system (in between his screaming fits at staff).
According to a new book, Let Trump Be Trump, by two former aides, he liked to eat McDonald’s after a rally — a typical dinner consisting of two Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish and a malted chocolate milkshake (totalling a horrendous 2,430 calories and 111 grams of fat) washed down with Diet Coke.
In a finely orchestrated operation, each night a member of his entourage had to time the McDonald’s visit to arrive back at the plane with the food just as Candidate Trump re-boarded. Mr Trump — so superstitious that he has been seen to throw salt over his shoulder before eating — also loves biscuits, but the plane had to carry industrial quantities because the obsessive germophobe refused to eat from any packet that was already opened.
(His phobias extended to dust — to avoid it, he ordered staff to book only hotels on the campaign trail that were less than six months old.)
Mr Trump was equally pernickety about how he looked in public. An imperious cry of ‘Get the machine!’ from Mr Trump during a flight was the signal for Hope Hicks, a glamorous young aide and former model, to get out a clothes steamer and press his suit while he was wearing it. Many expected the brash New Yorker would change when he got to the White House, but they’ve been sorely disappointed, hence the role now played by his White House chief-of-staff, John Kelly, a tough ex-U.S. Marines general who was recruited to bring order to the unruly administration.
Nanny knows best and Mr Kelly isn’t taking any nonsense from his ward. He reportedly reserves the right to listen in to the President’s phone calls and — if he has to miss them — will ring the caller back to ensure Mr Trump didn’t make any wild promises.
He’s discovered that he can’t stop the President tweeting, so he’s trying to cut down the amount of free time he has to do it by starting his working day earlier — around 9 or 9.30am — and speeding up the pace of his meetings.
Mr Kelly is also restricting access to the President, ending the chaos in which friends and family would freely wander into the Oval Office and distract a man with an already famously short attention span. In fact, Trump confidants now try to bypass Mr Kelly by getting messages to him through the First Lady, Melania. Mr Trump will also sneak his aides in during the evening to discuss his plans, warning them — like the opinionated confidants with whom he talks in unapproved night-time phone calls — not to tell Mr Kelly.
The general even approves who Mr Trump can invite for dinner, which starts at 6.30pm and often involves the President taking guests on a tour. The hygiene-obsessed premier is particularly keen on showing off the White House bathrooms.
And while he no longer has to rely on fast food, he’s lost none of his penchant for cholesterol. Well-done steak, salad dripping in Roquefort and bacon dressing, and huge slices of dessert slathered in ice cream are favourites.
When the guests leave, Mr Trump gets back to TV news, before turning in around midnight or the early hours. An insomniac, he gets only five or six hours sleep a night before waking — and reaching once again for that dreaded remote.