WASHINGTON – White House officials said President Donald Trump countermanded chief of staff John Kelly’s guidance to take the day off when he delivered his 23-minute recap of his trip to Asia.
Multiple officials and aides were eager to promote Trump’s stamina with The Associated Press on Thursday, as he tweeted late into the night and early in the morning. In interviews, they said chief of staff John Kelly had ordered a day off Wednesday for staff who had travelled with the president and had advised Trump to rest as well. However, they said, Trump insisted on quickly summarizing his trip for the American people.
The officials commented after Trump spoke rapidly and took several sips of water during the speech. Kelly had told aides travelling with the president not to show up to work Wednesday, but Trump had other ideas, they said, insistent on quickly summarizing his trip for the American people.
“The staff is exhausted, but he wanted to go out there,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Trump worked on the address nearly the entire flight back to the U.S. on Tuesday, senior adviser Stephen Miller said.
One recounted playfully pretending to be asleep when Trump visited the staff cabin aboard Air Force One on one long flight.
The officials said they had worried that Trump would grow frustrated with the extended time on the road but added that their concerns were unwarranted.
Trump’s shaky 23-minute performance Wednesday came a day after his return and drew widespread ridicule online. The episode revived clips of Trump mocking Republican primary opponent Sen. Marco Rubio for a similarly awkward, mid-speech water break.
Sanders said Trump was unfazed by hopping across so many time zones. “He’s twice my age and he has twice my energy,” she said.
As far as the gulps of water, the officials said the travel had left Trump parched.
Trump had boasted to reporters aboard Air Force One about how well he was holding up on the trip.
“A lot of people said it’s almost physically impossible for someone to go through 12 days,” he said. “Anybody that took the bet, pick up your money, OK?”