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Trump takes break from White House with ‘working vacation’

UPDATED: Sat., Aug. 5, 2017

President Donald Trump salutes after walking 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, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, in Morristown, N.J. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
President Donald Trump salutes after walking 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, Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, in Morristown, N.J. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
By Catherine Lucey Associated Press

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. – President Donald Trump is taking a break from the capital after a rocky first six months in office, but he insists he is not on vacation.

Burdened with West Wing conflict, a stalled legislative agenda and a pile of investigations, Trump departed Washington on Friday afternoon for a 17-day trip to his private golf club in central New Jersey. He was accompanied by his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both senior advisers, as well as the aide charged with resetting his chaotic administration– new chief of staff John Kelly.

Trump said it was not a holiday on Saturday evening, tweeting: “Working in Bedminster, N.J., as long planned construction is being done at the White House. This is not a vacation – meetings and calls!”

A White House official said Trump’s plans for Bedminster included meetings with aides and lawmakers. He was briefed by Kelly about the three U.S. Marines who were missing after their Osprey aircraft crashed into the sea off the east coast of Australia on Saturday while trying to land.

The White House did not answer questions about whether Trump was golfing, but he did chat with some wedding guests at the club, according to a video posted by WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.

Trump sent out a flurry of tweets in the early evening, defending his travel plans and hailing a vote by the U.N. Security Council to impose new sanctions on North Korea. He also praised Attorney General Jeff Sessions for pledging to clamp down in government leaks, after previously complaining he was weak on the matter.

There is some renovation work underway at the White House while Trump is out of town. Everyone working in the West Wing, including Trump, had to clear out so the government could replace a balky, 27-year-old heating and cooling system

Kelly’s first week on the job was marked by his efforts to crack down on a disorderly system. He quickly made his presence known on Monday, ousting newly appointed communications director Anthony Scaramucci and revising the command structure so that all senior staffers report to him.

Still, it is not clear Trump will change his Twitter ways. On Tuesday he tweeted that “only the Fake News Media and Trump enemies want me to stop using Social Media.”

Before he took office, Trump was a frequent critic of former President Barack Obama’s vacation and golf habits.

“(at)BarackObama played golf yesterday. Now he heads to a 10 day vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. Nice work ethic,” Trump tweeted in August 2011.

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.

Trump also frequently plays golf at his properties, though the White House typically will not acknowledge that he plays.

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