The Washington Post spoke with 12 current and former White House officials who said that members of the administration were shocked at the president’s behavior during conversations with authoritarians like Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of the Saudi royal family.
“There was a constant undercurrent in the Trump administration of [senior staff] who were genuinely horrified by the things they saw that were happening on these calls,” one former White House official—who spoke on the condition of anonymity—told the Post.
“Phone calls that were embarrassing, huge mistakes he made, months and months of work that were upended by one impulsive tweet,” the official added.
Officials said it was a constant battle to keep Trump on track. “You had two to three minutes max,” one former senior administration official said. “And then he was still usually going to say whatever he wanted to say.”
Another said aides quickly had to come to terms with his unconventional, and at times embarrassing, manner. “People had gotten really numb to him blurting out something he shouldn’t have,” one former national security staffer told the Post.
Officials were also concerned that calls with long-time U.S. allies often did not go as smoothly as those with strongmen and dictators. “People who could do things for him—he was nice to,” one former security official said. “Leaders with trade deficits, strong female leaders, members of NATO — those tended to go badly.”