Christopher Ruddy, a member of the Trump International Golf Club who has access to the president, invited reporter Michael Schmidt as his guest for lunch, sat near the president’s usual table, and then brought the reporter over to speak with the president.
Trump ended up giving Schmidt a 30-minute, on-the-record interview in which he discussed multiple topics, including his tumultuous relationship with the media and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
According to The Washington Post, no aides were present during the interview, but White House communications director Hope Hicks monitored the interview from “afar,” even going so far as to have Trump’s personal aide interrupt the interview and hand the president a cell phone with her on the other end.
One White House official didn’t even know the interview had happened until after it was finished, and when asked about it, replied, “What interview? Today?”
Another aide called the interview “embarrassing.”
President Trump conducted the interview while visiting Mar-a-Lago – his oceanside resort in Palm Beach, Florida, that has been dubbed the “Winter White House.”
Trump’s staff reportedly find it harder to control what the president does and sees, especially his daily media intake, when he visits his Florida resort.
“At Mar-a-Lago, anyone who can get within eyesight changes the game,” a former White House official told The Post.
The president’s former campaign adviser, Roger Stone, said that Mar-a-Lago “allows Trump to be Trump.”
“Nobody tells Donald Trump where he can and cannot go,” Stone said. “The president is able to get a lot of information that is normally blocked from getting to him . . . You don’t have the minders. There is no doubt that he makes more calls.”
Trump’s interview with Schmidt had some interesting quotes that have gotten a lot of coverage, such as Trump’s assertion that there was no collusion with Russia, but if there had been, it was not a crime. However, President Trump is reportedly “enthusiastic” about the interview and “enjoyed” its coverage afterward.