A Trump Vacation Formula: Work Hard, Play Hard, Tweet Hard

With rain washing away any golf, the president spent part of his working vacation on Monday posting messages of grievance and frustration

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President Trump with his grandchildren Arabella Kushner, right, and Joseph Kushner at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey on Friday.
President Trump with his grandchildren Arabella Kushner, right, and Joseph Kushner at Morristown Municipal Airport in New Jersey on Friday.Credit: AL DRAGO FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

Here is how a vacation day starts for President Trump. He wakes up, he turns on the television, he sees something that makes him mad, and he reaches for his Twitter-enabled smartphone to vent.

In other words, it’s an awful lot like the way he starts his workday.

So when Mr. Trump protests that he is not really on vacation, as he spends 17 days this month away from Washington, he has a point. For Mr. Trump, there is no vacation from grievance and frustration. He does not define daily life by such easy delineations as office hours and home hours. He may take a relaxed approach at work, and he may engage in politics from his bedroom in Bedminster, N.J.

To be sure, no president is ever really on vacation, not in the sense of escaping to the beach, clearing out the head and genuinely leaving the office behind. Whether it was Bill Clinton at his luxury rental in Martha’s Vineyard or George W. Bush at his ranch near Crawford, Tex., the world has a way of following a president. Barack Obama was singing Christmas carols in Hawaii when an aide interrupted to tell him that a man with explosives in his underwear had tried to blow up a passenger plane.

As other presidents have done, Mr. Trump had his daily intelligence briefing on Monday. He followed it up with an hourlong telephone call with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson to talk about the confrontation with North Korea over its ballistic missile program.

His chief of staff, John F. Kelly, who was also on the call, spent the weekend with him. Aides said Vice President Mike Pence and other advisers would make the trek to the Trump National Golf Club to talk about health care, taxes and Afghanistan. First up will be Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, who will meet with Mr. Trump on Tuesday about opioid abuse.

“Working hard from New Jersey while White House goes through long planned renovation,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Going to New York next week for more meetings.”

His staff is eager to schedule more meetings and public announcements or statements. For one thing, they want to show the public that Mr. Trump is still working hard, just as White House officials did during other presidents’ vacations. For another, they want to make sure he is kept as busy as possible, understanding that an idle president has a way of creating trouble.

So far, though, it has been a vacation out of the public eye. Mr. Trump arrived Friday evening along with his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner; Mr. Kelly; and other White House aides. He has not been seen publicly since. He reportedly dropped by to greet a wedding party at the club over the weekend, but the journalists in the pool assigned to cover him have not been allowed to set foot on the property, nor have they laid eyes on him since Friday.

With driving rain on Monday making golf unappealing, it remained unclear what the president did to enjoy himself. Other presidents, including Mr. Clinton, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, brought stacks of books with them on vacation, dutifully reported by aides. Mr. Trump is not known as much of a book reader. Mr. Bush loved clearing brush and bicycling on his ranch, while Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama liked to play cards. Mr. Trump is not often spotted with a chain saw or a deck of cards.

CNN cheekily contrasted Mr. Trump’s vacation with that of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, who was shown fishing bare chested in Siberia. Mr. Trump is not much of a fisherman nor does he often take his shirt off in public.

He does watch cable television. Around 7:30 a.m. on Monday, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, went on CNN to talk about the special counsel investigation into possible ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russiaduring and after last year’s election. Mr. Trump presumably was watching, because about 15 minutes later he was flaming Mr. Blumenthal.

“Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!” he wrote on Twitter. “Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”

Mr. Blumenthal received at least five deferments from military service during the Vietnam War era and then went into the Marine Reserve, where he served in a unit in Washington. But as a politician, he referred to himself as having “served in Vietnam” or “served during the Vietnam era.” The New York Times article exposing these false or misleading statements in 2010 did not, however, report that he had told stories about Vietnam battles or conquests, nor that he had cried when exposed. Mr. Trump received five deferments from the draft: four for college and one for bad feet.

Mr. Blumenthal responded, using Mr. Trump’s own favorite medium. “Mr. President: Your bullying hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. No one is above the law,” he wrote on Twitter. “This issue isn’t about me — it’s about the Special Counsel’s independence and integrity.”

Mr. Trump was still stewing about it nine hours later. “I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there,” he wrote on Twitter.

All told, Mr. Trump blasted out 13 Twitter posts before dinner, going after other favorite targets as well, including the “failing” New York Times. As often happens, his posts included false assertions. He said that The Times had apologized for its coverage of the election last year. (It did not.) And he said the newspaper has “big losses.” (Revenue was up 9 percent in the last quarter.)

In a statement from a spokeswoman, Danielle Rhoades Ha, The Times called Mr. Trump’s claims “incorrect” and noted that the newspaper has 3.3 million paid subscriptions — its most ever — and growing profit, income and revenues. “NYT’s business is thriving,” The Times said on Twitter.

Mr. Trump complained that the “Fake News Media” was not paying enough attention to the United Nations Security Council vote to add more sanctions against North Korea, and he grumbled that he was not getting sufficient credit for the accomplishments of his 200-day-old presidency. He seemed particularly intent on making the case that he still has his base behind him despite overall low poll numbers.

“The Trump base is far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phony Fake News polling). Look at rallies in Penn, Iowa, Ohio and West Virginia,” he saidin a string of Twitter posts. “The fact is the Fake News Russian collusion story, record Stock Market, border security, military strength, jobs, Supreme Court pick, economic enthusiasm, deregulation & so much more have driven the Trump base even closer together. Will never change!”

And neither, he seemed to be saying, will he, whether the day is called a vacation or not.