Trump 101: The producer of his own epic film - Axios
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Trump 101: The producer of his own epic film

President Trump doesn't view life through the lens that most people do. In ways small and sweeping, he sees himself as The Producer, conducting The Trump show, on and off stage.

This is the man who noted the movie-like awesomeness of Marine One taking off on Inauguration Day, moved a lamp that might mess up photos of himself with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and scolded his press secretary for not wearing a stark suit that pops on TV.

This is the man who was captivated by watching coverage of himself while flying between campaign stops. Aides quit trying to show him tapes of previous debates while getting ready for the next one, because he would only focus on himself — and always applauded what he saw. Chuck Todd, moderator of "Meet The Press," noted that Trump used to replay his appearances on the Sunday shows — without sound — like a quarterback reviewing game film. "He's a very visual guy," Todd said on a Politico podcast. "He thinks this way. And look, it's an important insight in just understanding him."

This is also the man who, when picking his Cabinet, was obsessed with whether a candidate "looked the part." Mitt Romney looked like a secretary of State, so his stock rose. He went with the more commanding Rex Tillerson. Gary Cohn, Trump's swaggering economic adviser, was an instant hit because he carried himself like someone to reckon with, aides told us.

Trump remarked to aides how short retired Gen. David Petraeus was, but was smitten with the John Wayne strut of "The Generals" he wound up picking — especially retired Gen.James Mattis (stage name: "Mad Dog"). A witness recalled Trump being introduced at a campaign to a veteran of the International Space Station, who resembled a young John Glenn. Trump exclaimed: "You LOOK like an astronaut!"

Let's be honest: Trump's gut on what sells on stage often works. He knew instinctively how to to appeal to the celebrity- tabloids in the '80s, sell America on "The Apprentice," starring him, beginning in 2004, and own the national and world stage for most of 2015, all of 2016, and at least the next four years.

His obsession with optics, style and TV glam are central to his being. Here are some gems we picked up reporting this:

  • Trump judges men's appearances as much as women's. A source who's worked with Trump explains: "If you're going to be a public person for him, whether it's a lawyer or representing him in meetings, then you need to have a certain look. That look —at least for any male — you have to be sharply dressed. Preferably, I would say, solid colors. … You should have a good physical demeanor, good stature, hair well groomed."
  • Trump pays close attention to ties. Says a source who has worked with Trump: "You're always supposed to wear a tie. If it's not a Trump tie, you can get away with Brooks Brothers. But I'd suggest Armani." Trump prefers wider, traditional ties, this source says. Regarding Trump's rakish policy adviser Stephen Miller, the source adds: "I've always been surprised about how Stephen Miller survives with those thin ties."
  • Trump likes the women who work for him "to dress like women," says a source who worked on Trump's campaign. "Even if you're in jeans, you need to look neat and orderly." We hear that women who worked in Trump's campaign field offices — folks who spend more time knocking on doors than attending glitzy events — felt pressure to wear dresses to impress Trump.
  • Staff knew Trump would be hacked off at press secretary Sean Spicer for not dressing fancy enough for his first briefing-room appearance. "It'd be one thing to wear a pinstripe that fit him perfectly," said one person who has spent a lot of time with Trump. "But, it was like, he had a gap in his collar. I was like, 'Oh God, he's going to get reamed.'"
    • "I was getting text messages: Can you believe what he's wearing?" the person continued. "Four people texted me, because we know the boss. … Trump is very much about: Present yourself in the best light. If you're going to represent him, even more so." Spicer seems to have learnt his lesson. Since then, he's only appeared in well-tailored dark suits, coupled with perfectly knotted ties.
  • One exception: Steve Bannon, who wouldn't be caught dead in Armani and has been photographed in the Oval Office without a tie, gets a pass. A source explains: "Steve is Steve ... He's cavalier almost about what he wears."

Why this matters: Over many years at "The Apprentice," Trump perfected the image of a decisive boss — a successful, brutal, but sometimes charming, authoritarian. Trump's mastery of imagery — particularly through television — is perhaps, more than any other factor, the reason he's the current occupant of the Oval Office.

It's also why he was so effective connecting with his audience and winning free media coverage. Whatever ideas his aides may have up their sleeves, Trump is always going to want to be The Producer and the popular leading man of the Trump Show.

It's not the polls. It's the ratings.
— President Donald J. Trump

Previously, on Trump 101:

Featured

Report: FBI thinks Kushner has key information for Russia probe

Andrew Harnik / AP

Jared Kushner is under FBI "scrutiny," because the bureau believes he has "significant information" relevant to the Russia investigation, NBC News reports. The Washington Post previously reported that a senior official close to Trump was a "significant person of interest" for the FBI.

Kushner had contact last year with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, as well as a Russian banker. There is no indication that he is suspected of breaking any laws.

Why it matters: Unlike Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, Kushner is not a subject of the investigation. But the investigation could grow increasingly uncomfortable for President Trump as it reaches into his inner circle.

Kushner's lawyer responds: "Mr. Kushner previously volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings. He will do the same if he is contacted in connection with any other inquiry."

Featured

Sessions vows to take travel ban appeal to Supreme Court

Ted S. Warren / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the DOJ will ask the Supreme Court to review Thursday's ruling from a federal appeals court keeping the block on President Trump's travel ban in place:

"President Trump's executive order is well within his lawful authority to keep the Nation safe…The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court..."

The dissenters: Sessions is right, the court was split 10-3. The dissenters said that the law does not permit judges to second-guess a president's ability to make decisions about national security.

The majority: Chief Judge Roger Gregory, however, wrote the ban "drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination."

Featured

Ford veteran returns after brief stint at Uber

Alan Diaz / AP

Sherif Marakby, an automotive executive who left Uber in April after one year, has re-joined Ford, where he previously spent 25 years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Marakby will be a vice president overseeing the company's self-driving and electric-car businesses.

The news comes a few days after Ford abruptly named James Hackett as its new CEO, replacing Mark Fields. Hackett was previously heading the company's Smart Mobility division.

Between the lines: Marakby's departure from Uber was only the latest amid a slew of controversies around the company, including an ongoing lawsuit from Alphabet's self-driving car unit, Waymo. And with Detroit's increasing focus on keeping up in the autonomous driving race and rethinking car ownership models, it's no surprise to see Marakby being wooed back by Ford, which has been heavily investing in those areas over the past year.

Featured

U.K. resumes sharing intel with U.S.

Matt Dunham / AP

The U.K. has resumed sharing intel with the U.S. according to the U.K. Home Secretary, Reuters and BBC report. This comes after the U.K. halted sharing intel with U.S. officials due to undesired leaks to the media about the Manchester bombings and photos of the crime scene.

Why now? U.K. counter-terrorism officers reportedly received assurances today about the U.S. Earlier today Trump said he had asked the DOJ to launch review of the leaks and threatened prosecution.

Featured

Millennials want to buy houses, but not save for them

Keith Srakocic / AP

Avocados aside, almost 80% of millennials plan to buy a home at some point, but aren't prepared for it, according to a study by Apartment List. The study also found that many millennials, especially those in metropolitan areas, significantly underestimate how much a down payment will cost them.

  • Almost 70% of 18- to 34-year-olds have saved less than $1K for a down payment.
  • 40% don't save at all on a monthly basis — even among 25-34 year olds who historically have owned or would be soon owning a home already.
  • Millennials making less than $24K typically save about 10% in general, while those who make more than $72K only save 3.5%.
  • Less than 30% of 25- to 34-year-olds can save enough for a 10% down payment in the next three years.

Why: In the survey, not being able to afford to buy a home was the biggest determent, followed by not being ready to settle down or waiting to get married. Student debt, rent and delayed careers due to the recession could all attribute to the affordability problem, as well as trends in urban areas to spend more on food and entertainment, Wall Street Journal points.out.


Featured

Zuckerberg: We need more purpose

Steven Senne / AP

Mark Zuckerberg told Harvard's graduating Class of 2017 Thursday that strong projects creating a sense of purpose for everyone involved. He said his hardest times at Facebook came about when he didn't take the time to explain the purpose of the project.

His call to action: Let''s "do big things not just to create progress, but to create purpose...You are graduating into a world that needs purpose. It's up to you."

His advice to those with big ideas: "Be prepared to be misunderstood."

What pop culture gets wrong about tech and innovation: "The idea of a single eureka moment is a lie," which he says is detrimental to future innovators who tend to think, "we feel like we just haven't had ours yet." Also, "no one writes math formulas on glass."

Here's everything Zuckerberg says our society needs right now:

  • "How about stopping climate change before we destroy the planet and getting millions of people involved installing solar panels?"
  • Track health data and share genomes
  • "Invest in cures so people don't get sick"
  • "How about modernizing democracy so everyone can vote online?"
  • "And how about personalizing education so everyone can learn… continuous education through our lives"
  • "Let's do it in a way that gives everyone" a role
  • "We need affordable child care"
  • "Healthcare that's not tied to just one employer"
  • "We need a society that's less focused on locking us up and [that] stigmatizes us when they do"
  • Eliminate income inequality
  • Deal with automation and self-driving trucks
His take on globalization: "There are people left behind by globalization…It's tough to care about other people when we don't feel good about our lives at home. There's pressure to turn inward."
Zuckerberg was accepted into Harvard as a member of the Class of 2006 and today received a Doctor of Laws with the Class of 2017.
Featured

OPEC will do "whatever is necessary" to raise oil prices

Ronald Zak / AP

Following a series of meetings between OPEC and non-OPEC countries in Vienna Thursday, Saudi Arabia's energy and oil minister, Khalid Al-Falih announced that all members will do "whatever is necessary to balance the markets," even if that means further extending cuts in oil output past March 2018.

Why March? Earlier today, the group agreed to extend its November deal to cut oil output by nine months. Al-Falih said that although they believe they will hit their desired target by the end of the year, the three-month extension should help with any buildup of stocks.

The caveat: Despite Al-Falih's boasting that most countries were sticking to quotas, not all OPEC and non-OPEC members who agreed to cut oil output by 1.8 million barrels a day are keeping up their end of the bargain. Iraq is just one example of cheating the agreement. According to Bloomberg, Iraq produced roughly 80,000 more barrels of oil a day than permitted.

Next meeting: All OPEC and non-OPEC members will meet again on November 30, 2017. Al-Falih said that the two groups are considering extending their close alliance and continuing to work together beyond 2017 and the nine-month extension.

  • 14 OPEC countries, as of January 2017: Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Equatorial GuineaGabon, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader), United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.
  • 10 non-OPEC countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Russia, Sudan and South Sudan.
Facts Matter Featured

What is NATO Article V and where does Trump stand on it?

Matt Dunham / AP

The issue

At a NATO leaders meeting May 25 President Trump did not explicitly endorse the collective defense article, Article V, of the North Atlantic Treaty, which binds member nations to defend one another if one comes under attack.

The facts

Trump was expected to make a commitment to Article V in the speech, but then stopped short of doing so. He did discuss shared "commitments," using the example of the September 11 attacks (the only time Article V has been invoked):

"We will never forsake the friends who stood by our side. And we will never waver in our determination to defeat terrorism and to achieve lasting prosperity and peace."

Why it matters

Article V is the cornerstone of NATO, and NATO member countries have been waiting to hear Trump confirm the U.S. will honor it, especially as he has repeatedly stressed that not all members are paying their fair share of defense spending and once called the alliance "obsolete." After the backlash to the omission, Sean Spicer stepped in to explain they're "not playing cutsie" and that Trump is "fully committed" to Article V.

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Ryan says Congress will move up deadline on debt ceiling

Andrew Harnik / AP

House Speaker Paul Ryan told investors Thursday that Congress will move up its deadline to raise the debt ceiling to avoid an economic default, reports AP. Congress was initially expected to vote on the debt limit this fall.
"The debt ceiling issue will get resolved."
—Paul Ryan
Timing: His reassurance comes a day after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin warned that Congress needs to vote to raise the nearly $20 trillion ceiling before their August recess.
Featured

Trump to Macron: "You were my guy"

Peter Dejong / AP

French officials said today that President Trump denied having supported far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen in the recent French presidential election while meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron today. Instead, Trump told Macron:

You were my guy.

Worth noting: While it certainly seems like Le Pen's nationalist positions would have endeared her to Trump, he stopped short of endorsing her in an April interview with the AP: "No, I have no comment on [endorsing Le Pen], but I think that [the April 20 shooting of Paris police officers] will probably help her because she is the strongest on borders and she is the strongest on what's been going on in France."