/‘He cares about his grievances and his reelection, and that’s it’

‘He cares about his grievances and his reelection, and that’s it’

In the months since House Democrats began probing whether he leveraged foreign aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rivals, the president has ditched conventional political wisdom to pursue a uniquely Trumpian defense strategy: campaign more, govern less.

As White House aides and senior administration officials scramble to keep his administration afloat, Trump has become monomaniacally focused on impeachment. Policy meetings and listening sessions have taken a backseat to his indignant tweeting and live analysis of witness testimony. The details of issues that once consumed his attention — such as immigration and trade — have been outsourced to senior officials, and Trump has opted to let others do the talking during meetings with foreign leaders that he would normally command himself.

“His top priority right now is making sure voters know this is the single greatest scam in the history of politics,” said a Republican close to the White House, borrowing a phrase Trump used in a White House video circulated last week. “If that sometimes means spending less time in Washington and more time interacting with Americans, that is what he’s going to do.”

But even when Trump has been at work in the West Wing, aides say his preoccupation with impeachment creeps into every discussion. Six current administration officials and people close to the president described Trump as increasingly interested in how the investigation is affecting his political standing, and more paranoid than ever about Republican defections.

In late-night phone calls to longtime pals, Trump has grumbled about the stain impeachment is likely to leave on his legacy, according to a Republican who spoke with the president recently. Others said he spends the bulk of his time monitoring reactions to impeachment, as well as what his defenders are saying, on Twitter and on cable news, and then relays his concerns to the group of aides handling the White House’s impeachment strategy.

When Trump has participated in official events recently — a White House reception celebrating his judicial appointments, a speech at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart — they have been intrinsically linked to his reelection bid. And often, the president’s blustery comments about impeachment during those events have distracted from the events themselves.

“This is a sham and shouldn’t be allowed,” Trump crowed during his press conference last Wednesday with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of Turkey. In a meeting preceding their joint appearance, Trump allowed a small group of Republican senators to confront Erdogan over his actions against Kurdish forces while he mostly listened, according to a person familiar with the meeting, who described Trump as uncharacteristically apathetic given his proclivity for interrupting and desire to dominate most conversations.

“Democrats in Washington would rather pursue outrageous hoaxes and delusional witch hunts than pass the USMCA and deliver real stuff for American workers,” Trump said in his Economic Club speech earlier in the week. His remarks were littered with references to impeachment and the general themes of his 2020 campaign.

The president resisted talking about the inquiry during the judges event in early November, though the purpose of the event was to celebrate his record number of judicial appointments since taking office — a key selling point for religious conservatives who make up a substantial portion of his base.

On the policy front, Trump has delegated issues that are critical to his reelection to high-ranking officials, acting agency heads and members of his family — freeing up his schedule to allow for more campaign events and less time dealing with the technicalities and complications of the policy-making process. Since House Democrats conducted the first closed-door deposition of their impeachment inquiry on Oct. 4, the president has held seven campaign rallies. He has another one scheduled in Sunrise, Fla., just before Thanksgiving — nearly doubling the combined number of rallies he held in July, August and September.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence has been leading the administration’s effort to get Congress to pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which lawmakers from both parties have said they hope to ratify by the end of the year. White House policy adviser Stephen Miller and Acting U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services Director Ken Cucinnelli have taken charge of the administration’s immigration policy, in addition to White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has continued to work on draft legislation to overhaul the United States’ legal immigration system, while managing the rest of his broad portfolio.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and State Department officials have been overseeing preparations for Trump’s upcoming trip to London for the NATO leaders summit, which the president himself has done very little to plan for, according to a person close to Trump.

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