U.S.

Donald Trump Did Not Want to Give National Speech, Thinks Border Visit Is a Waste of Time: New York Times Journalist

President Donald Trump did not want to give his prime-time Oval Office address and said privately that his planned Thursday trip to the southern border was a waste of time, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.

Haberman—a White House correspondent for The Times and one of the best-connected political reporters in the U.S.—made the comments on CNN following the president’s Tuesday night address.

Read More: Trump speech: Republican Senator Graham gives glowing response 

“What I was struck by watching this speech—as I had heard from several sources throughout the day—the president was really not that into doing this speech,” Haberman told host Chris Cuomo. “There’s a reason he has not done an address like this in the course of the last two years, and it’s because he hasn’t wanted to.”

She later shared a Times article by Peter Baker on Twitter, which described the president’s private assertions that the speech—and his planned trip to Texas to visit the border—were “pointless.”

Haberman and Cuomo both suggested that Trump was not particularly well-suited to a sit-down talk from the Oval Office. "It’s just not a natural setting for him," Haberman said. She noted that Trump “is a much better salesman” in one-on-one settings than “in those kinds of teleprompter moments.”

Despite the media frenzy around the speech, Haberman and many other observers were far from impressed with its content. “We didn’t hear a whole lot new,” she said. “We certainly heard a whole lot—though less than usual—of things that were not true.”

The reporter described the speech as a “Hail Mary” rather than a well-planned effort to untangle the ongoing federal shutdown and secure funding for Trump’s contentious border wall. “There has not been a grand strategy covering much of this,” Haberman said.

The shutdown—now in its 19th day—has left about 800,000 federal employees either furloughed or working without pay. It is now one of the longest shutdows in U.S. history, and Haberman suggested Republican lawmakers increasingly feared the long-term effect on their party’s electoral appeal.

“They are privately well aware that they are running out of time,” she said. “We are on the verge of people missing their paychecks. They know the tide’s going to turn—and it’s turning already—but it’s going to move much faster after that happens. [The Trump administration is] aware and they are hearing from moderate Republicans on the Hill that they are losing this battle.”

The White House is still at loggerheads with House Democrats over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion toward his wall. Democratic leaders have ruled out giving the president any funds toward the controversial project, while attempting to pass their own legislation that would reopen the government while they continue to negotiate border security.

Trump has threatened he could declare a national emergency that would allow him to bypass Congress and force his wall plan through. Haberman said she still thinks “the likeliest endgame for him is declaring a national emergency at some point” but noted many of his aides have urged him to refrain. 

"Among other reasons, his conservative supporters really think it’s potentially a dangerous route to go down,” she said.

Donald Trump national speech border wall shutdown Members of American Legion Post 416 watch President Donald Trump speak to the nation on January 8, in Encinitas, California. Trump didn't want to give this address, according to New York Times reporter. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Join the Discussion

Editor's Pick