Jan 16, 2019

Trump's strategic planning inspiration: Mike Tyson

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

When a frustrated adviser once tried to convince President Trump to consider a strategic plan, the president launched into a story about his friend Mike Tyson, the former world heavyweight boxing champion.

What he's saying: "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth," Trump said, echoing a famous Tyson quote.

I had asked the adviser whether Trump ever expressed frustration that his West Wing lacked enough of a plan for the crises ahead.

  • "He gets frustrated when there is a plan," the adviser said. "He’s not a guy who likes a plan. ... There’s an animosity towards planning, and there’s a desire to pick fights that have nothing to do with us."

Trump used the Tyson quote as evidence that detailed strategic plans are pointless and said, in the adviser’s recollection, "We’ve just gotta fight every day and that’s how we win."

  • "We can plan all this stuff out but it’ll change," the president continued. "So let’s just not go through the effort."
  • The adviser said that Trump's "main view was that all this stuff wasn’t predictable, ... which is unfortunately not accurate. ... It absolutely is predictable."
  • A second source, a senior administration official, confirmed Trump has used that Tyson quote to make his point about the pointlessness of planning.

A third senior official insisted that the Tyson example is not entirely representative and said that while Trump doesn’t personally like discussing plans he likes to know there is a plan.

  • Other officials insist he prefers to wing it, keeping loose and flexible and avoiding locking himself into even the vaguest plans.

For Trump’s part, he often claims there is a plan, but he just won’t reveal it.

  • During the campaign, he said he had a secret plan to defeat ISIS.
  • Trump tweeted Saturday: "I just watched a Fake reporter from the Amazon Washington Post say the White House is 'chaotic, there does not seem to be a strategy for this Shutdown. There is no plan.' ... I do have a plan on the Shutdown."

Why it matters: Trump's aversion to planning has been evident throughout his administration.

  • You see it now with his handling of the shutdown, which he entered without a clear conception of an exit ramp, according to aides.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Trump announces 30-day extension of coronavirus guidelines

President Trump announced on Sunday that his administration will extend its "15 Days to Slow the Spread" guidelines until April 30 in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 130,000 Americans and killed nearly 2,500.

Why it matters: Top advisers to the president have been seeking to steer him away from Easter as an arbitrary deadline for the U.S. to open parts of its economy, amid warnings from health officials that loosening restrictions could cause the number of coronavirus cases to skyrocket.

Go deeperArrow36 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 716,101 — Total deaths: 33,854 — Total recoveries: 148,900.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 136,880 — Total deaths: 2,409 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "panicked" some people into fleeing New York
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reports 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reports almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.