While in the midst of hate-tweeting officials in Puerto Rico and accusing the island’s population of being unwilling to help itself, President Donald Trump played a round of golf this weekend, an official familiar with the president’s schedule tells The Daily Beast.
The leisurely golf came on Saturday at the president’s Bedminster, New Jersey, golf resort, before Trump’s scheduled conversations with officials from Puerto Rico and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And while White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm that Trump was indeed on the links, she wouldn’t deny it. The schedule of Trump’s tweets also suggest that he went golfing, with a conspicuous 6 hour absence in his posting on the social platform.
A White House official told The Daily Beast that apart from golfing on Saturday, Trump was also briefed by senior officials over the phone on Puerto Rico, North Korea, and other domestic and national security matters. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the president’s schedule. When asked about this on Sunday morning, Sanders simply replied to The Daily Beast that she “can confirm he was briefed on those issues yesterday,” sidestepping the golfing entirely, as is standard practice for this White House press office.
The president was accompanied during his weekend break from Washington, DC, by some of his closest advisers, including Dan Scavino, Trump’s social media director, and Hope Hicks, his longtime aide and the White House communications director.
White House officials noted that he was briefed by FEMA administrator Brock Long, and his schedule for the day also included conversations with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, former Governor Luis Fortuño, and resident commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez Colon.
But if the administration was attempting to portray a president not taking his eye off work even as he enjoyed a little leisure, Trump himself made their job harder. On Sunday, the White House announced that Trump was slated to attend the Presidents Cup golf tournament in Jersey City, where he will take in the competition from the Commissioner's Box and the 18th green of Liberty National Golf Club.
When he hasn’t been playing or watching golf, Trump has spent the weekend lashing out at other officials in Puerto Rico in a personal feud, when millions of American citizens remain in dire straits without electricity and with dwindling supplies of food and water.
The primary target of Trump’s Saturday morning Twitter tirade was San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, whom the president accused of political motivations in her criticism of the federal government’s response to devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” the president wrote. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
The series of early morning tweets ended just after 8 AM, preceding six hours of public silence before about 2 PM, when Trump was scheduled to receive a briefing on FEMA’s efforts in Puerto Rico. The president then rattled off compliments for each of the officials he spoke with on Saturday afternoon.
Sanders did not respond to questions about the president’s weekend golf outing, his Presidents Cup attendance, or whether the optics of either might present a problem for an administration already facing criticism over its natural disaster response efforts in Puerto Rico.
Trump himself had leveled similar criticism against his predecessor. After catastrophic flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, last year, Trump tweeted, “President Obama should have gone to Louisiana days ago, instead of golfing. Too little, too late!” In a separate and more generic bit of criticism, Trump tweeted in 2014, “Can you believe that,with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf.Worse than Carter.”
This weekend wasn’t even the first time this president has shame-tweeted Puerto Rico as it started its long, brutal recovery.
Early last week, President Trump finally took a break from his weekend of angrily tweeting and feuding with the National Football League to highlight the crisis on the U.S. territory. Sources told The Daily Beast that the president had grown angry as he consumed more and more news coverage of the devastation, and with it the cable-news commentary that he appeared inattentive or uncaring toward Puerto Ricans.
To demonstrate that he cared and that he was indeed paying at least some attention, @realDonaldTrump sent out a series of off-key tweets in which he seemed to blame the hurricane-ravaged island for its own fate. He repeated that, and then some, this weekend.
And when Trump wasn’t fixating on his ongoing public shaming of Puerto Rican officials, he turned some of his attention to another topic he was briefed on this weekend: North Korea. The president, once again, seemed determined to undermine his own Secretary of State, who announced that the U.S. had opened a dialogue with North Korea.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” @realDonaldTrump tweeted on Sunday morning. “Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!”