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Trump holding briefing on opioid crisis during his non-vacation

by Pearline Bingham (2020-06-05)

President Donald Trump will provide Americans with a televised assurance that his 'working vacation' involves actual work: holding a briefing on the opioid epidemic that is ravaging the nation.

Trump, who is spending 17 days at his Bedminister, New Jersey golf club, tweeted Tuesday morning that 'I will be holding a major briefing on the Opioid crisis, a major problem for our country, today at 3:00 P.M. in Bedminster, N.J.'

The event will feature his Health and Human Services Secretary, former Rep. Tom Price.

The president also retweeted a report from Fox News, headlined: 'OPIOID CRISIS: Worse than we thought, with a new study showing overdose deaths were under reported.'

President Donald Trump waves as he walks down the steps of Air Force One with his grandchildren, Arabella Kushner, center, and Joseph Kushner, right, after arriving at Morristown Municipal Airport to begin his summer vacation at his Bedminster golf club in Morristown, N.J. The president tweeted he is 'not on vacation'

The president has also done work behind the scenes, based on a scattering of information provided by press aides and the president's own assurances.

'Working in Bedminster, N.J., as long planned construction is being done at the White House. This is not a vacation - meetings and calls!' Trump tweeted at the start of his break.

He has been accompanied by new chief of staff John Kelly, as well as daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner. Both are White House officials as well as family members. 

Trump also has found time to fire off angry tweets at Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, urging him to 'take a nice long vacation in Vietnam' in one of several stinging attacks about Blumenthal's misleading statements about his service a decade ago.

President Trump tweeted that he is hard at work at his Bedminister golf course, but also got photographed on the links

President Trump tweeted that he is hard at work at his Bedminister golf course, but also got photographed on the links

Blumenthal had repeated his calls for the special counsel to be able to probe possible 'collusion' between the Trump campaign and the Russians. 

The president has decamped from Washington to his private golf club in central New Jersey.

Trump's aides are referring to the 17-day break as a "working vacation." They say Trump is meeting with advisers and cabinet members to discuss policy. He is expected to go to New York City next week.  

On Monday, he had nothing on his public schedule. Aides declined to answer repeated questions about whether he is playing golf.

The only sighting of Trump since he landed in New Jersey was a video that surfaced online Saturday of the president greeting wedding guests at his club. Dressed in a golf shirt and a red "Make America Great Again" hat, Trump exited a golf cart to chat with the guests.

'Working hard from New Jersey,' Trump tweeted Monday

Trump tweeted attacks at Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Monday

Trump tweeted that he made a phone call to the president of South Korea

SUMMER READING: Trump shot out tweets blasting the New York Times

Aides said he held an hour-long call with secretary of state Rex Tillerson Monday. 

So far, the main proof Trump is not off the clock is his steady flow of Twitter comments, particularly Monday, when rain likely kept him indoors. Besides attacking Blumenthal, he has pushed out messages touting his supporters and highlighting a vote by the United Nations Security Council to slap more sanctions on North Korea.

Trump's Golf Course & Country Club in Bedminster, New Jersey

Trump plans to hold a briefing Tuesday on the opioid crisis

The White House renovation Trump referenced involves updates to the 27-year old HVAC system. Other officials are working out of the Old Executive Office Building across a driveway from the West Wing.

Getting out of Washington in the dog days of summer is a well-established presidential tradition. President George W. Bush enjoyed his Texas ranch, while President Barack Obama frequented Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. President Ronald Reagan went out to Santa Barbara, California.

Of course, the president never really leaves the job, traveling with a mini-White House of advisers and aides and continuing briefings and conversations wherever he goes.





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Trump has also tweeted about North Korea's continuing missile tests

While there is precedent for Trump to get a change of scenery, the president may be chafing at calling it vacation because he frequently slammed his predecessor for leaving town and for playing golf. In August 2011, Trump tweeted: "@BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha's Vineyard. Nice work ethic."

"President Trump is hyper-sensitive about the word 'vacation' because he hammered President Obama for so long for taking it," said presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, a professor of history at Rice University. Brinkley added that presidents are "always having to work. Hence the phrase 'working vacation.'"

The White House has not revealed whether the president is golfing. Trump is pictured playing a round of golf after the opening of The Trump International Golf Links Course on July 10, 2012 in Balmedie, Scotland

So far, Trump has spent 13 of 28 weekends in office away from the White House, mostly at his properties in Palm Beach, Florida, or in Bedminster, New Jersey, according to an Associated Press count. The figures include a weekend during official travel overseas, and Father's Day weekend at Camp David, the government-owned presidential retreat in Maryland.

Anita McBride, who served as Laura Bush's chief of staff, agreed that the White House travels with the president. She said getting out of Washington has benefits, recalling President George W. Bush's love of cycling and other activities at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"That's where he recharged his batteries," she said. "Any of us who have worked in the White House really understands the need for getting away."

The real world often intrudes on these summer presidential getaways.

In 1998, Clinton briefly came back to Washington from Martha's Vineyard to deal with missile attacks in Sudan and Afghanistan. Reagan came home early from a California vacation in 1983 after Korean Airlines Flight 007 was shot down in by a Soviet fighter jet. In 2005, George W. Bush was criticized for not cutting off his vacation after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Brinkley recalled a series of serious events that intruded on Obama's summer breaks, including the beheading of journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants in 2014 and Syria's chemical weapons use in 2013.

"Things happen when presidents are away," said Brinkley. "Every August you have something horrific that's going to happen."