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‘This Is Who the American People Elected’: White House Grapples with Un-Presidential Trump After School Shooting

The White House was relieved when the president did not go golfing right after a national tragedy. But then he got a hold of Twitter...

Asawin Suebsaeng2.18.18 12:32 PM ET

In the days ahead of the long Presidents’ Day weekend, several White House aides had privately conceded to The Daily Beast that they were worried how it would look if their boss decided to go golfing, again.

Entering the weekend directly following the Parkland school shooting—at a time when family and friends of the victims, as well as survivors, were still grappling with what had struck their community—President Donald Trump was already scheduled to spend the next few days at his Florida resort getaway, Mar-a-Lago, where he famously takes long stretches of hours to golf and blow off steam. Senior White House officials were fully aware of how bad the optics would be, and how aloof the president would appear, if Trump hit the golf course to relax as another Florida community mourned and held memorials.

At least as of Sunday early morning, the president’s staff got its wish. Senior Trump aides began informing reporters that, despite the cooperating weather in Palm Beach, President Trump would not be golfing—out of respect for the solemn moment.

According to the White House, Trump on Saturday made phone calls to Parkland, Florida, Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Ty Thompson to offer continued support and gratitude. On Saturday, the president also made an appearance at a fundraiser thrown at Mar-a-Lago for Orphan’s Promise, a special ministry of televangelist Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. (Recently, Robertson had linked the Las Vegas mass shooting to a nationwide “disrespect for our President” Trump.)

Despite staying off the green, the president largely spent the weekend attempting to settle some scores with political enemies and perennial adversaries, binge-watching cable news, rage-tweeting late into the night, lashing out as his own national security adviser, and making the solemn moment about himself and his personal grievance.

President Trump also managed to carve out some time to tweet about “asses,” again.

The White House did not respond to requests to comment on the record Sunday morning on whether any of this demonstrated respect for the dead and the mourners.

“Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!” Trump tweeted on Saturday night shortly before midnight, repeating a talking point that had been blasted over conservative media, including Fox News, a favorite influencer of the president’s.

Trump was responding to news of the bureau admitting that it did receive a tip about the Parkland mass-shooter in January, but failed to transmit the warning to its Miami field office. Trump could not, it appears, resist linking this back to completely unrelated anger at the Russia probe stalking his presidency, no matter how crass making such a link would be.

Fourteen minutes later, he went after his national security adviser, again showing where his mind has been at on a weekend that he began briefly visiting Broward County hospital and then lauding the "incredible" work of first responders and law enforcement.

“General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!” Trump tweeted Saturday evening, once again posting some of his, and right-wing, pro-Trump media’s, preferred comebacks and retorts—whether grounded in reality, or not).

These were both preceded by a flurry of hate-tweets attacking Democrats on DACA and guns, venting about “Facebook Ads,” and, as he is wont to do, teasing the “Fake News Media.”

Then Sunday morning came, when the president focused his wrath online at CNN, Barack Obama, plenty more Russia-related annoyances, “Liddle’ Adam Schiff, the leakin’ monster of no control,” and jubilant Russian “asses” in Moscow.

“If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” Trump wrote on Twitter Sunday morning this holiday weekend.

Even for a president known for his jolting tweetstorms, often sent over weekends from his Florida estate, the missives this weekend were noteworthy. Aides chalked up at least some of what triggered President Trump the past couple days to the avalanche of criticism he has received in the news and social media, post-Parkland-massacre and post- Robert Mueller indictments. Also, according to two sources who spoke to the president this weekend, he has spent some of his Presidents’ Day break confiding in longtime friends and allies about how unfair and “nasty” media coverage has been of him lately.

Other West Wing officials simply said that this is who the president is—self-centered and vindictive in the face of atrocity and national tragedy, and all.

“This is who the American people elected,” a senior Trump aide stressed.

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