Trump is going back to his comfort zone as chaos grips the White House

Donald Trump. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • President Donald Trump is reviving many themes of his presidential campaign as his administration is in turmoil.
  • He’s delivering freewheeling remarks.
  • He’s not holding back on anyone.
  • And he seems more unbound from convention than ever.

President Donald Trump is back in campaign mode.

“I think he lives there,” Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, told Business Insider.

Chris Ruddy, a close Trump confidant and the CEO of the conservative news outlet Newsmax, echoed Bennett.

Trump loves to be “on the trail and connecting with real people” and prizes the opportunity to “bypass the media and speak to the public directly,” Ruddy said.

“The president never stopped his last campaign!” Ruddy said.

Within the past couple weeks, Trump has resurfaced a number of themes from his 2016 presidential campaign. He has returned to his more traditional, off-the-cuff style of public speaking. He has put Republicans on blast, presidential debate-style, while the cameras were on. And he has dealt with the fallout of a scandal involving a porn star alleging a hush payment, all the while dealing with chaos and turnover in his administration.

Perhaps not coincidentally, he also named his 2020 campaign manager.

Trump will get his fix on the campaign trail Saturday, when he heads to Pennsylvania’s closely watched 18th Congressional District to campaign for Republican candidate Rick Saccone. He is facing off against Democrat Conor Lamb in Tuesday’s special election.

‘Chaos’ in the White House

On Tuesday, Trump insisted there is “no Chaos” in the White House, though he put people on notice by saying he “still” has some staffers he wants “to change.” Then he blasted the Oscars, saying that its ratings were so low since “we don’t have Stars anymore except your President (just kidding, of course,)”

It was very much a page out of the Trump campaign.

It’s a theme that has continued since “campaign Trump” broke out in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference late last month. In that speech, delivered in his familiar, freewheeling, style, he labelled 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton a “crooked candidate” who failed to campaign in key swing states. The riff led to attendees chanting “Lock her up,” a common refrain of the campaign. He also attacked another individual who he notably criticised early in the campaign: Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

McCain, who is battling brain cancer, came under Trump’s crosshairs for his thumbs-down vote on a Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act this summer.

Trump CPAC
Trump. Screenshot/ABC

Then, like in many of his campaign rallies, he offered up his reading of “The Snake,” a decades-old soul hit that he’s long used as an analogy to US policies on taking in refugees and immigrants.

He even took a moment to mention his hair, joking that he tries “like hell to hide that bald spot.”

The following day, Trump did something he was known for in his campaign, but has continued as president – call in to a cable news show. Trump gave Fox News host Jeanine Pirro a ring late on Saturday and provided an extensive interview with her. He spoke about the House Intelligence Committee memos, complained about Democrats, and blasted the ongoing investigation into Russian election interference.

“There is no collusion,” Trump said. “I was – you know – I don’t want sound braggadocios, I was a far better candidate, she was not a good candidate.”

‘I really believe I’d run in there’

The following week, Trump made a campaign-style promise and, in another campaign theme, somewhat stepped on his own message, saying that he would have run into the Florida high school during a mass shooting.

“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon,” Trump said at a meeting with state governors.

Later in the week, Trump revived what was commonplace during his presidential campaign just days after his pledge to enter the high school during the shooting – attacking Republicans to their face on camera.

During his riveting meeting on gun control with Republican and Democratic legislators, Trump took a moment to accuse Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania – publicly no fan of Trump’s for much of the presidential campaign – of being “afraid of the NRA,” the organisation which he later added has “great power” over Republicans but “less power over me.”

Trump dianne feinstein marco rubio gun control
Trump, Dianne Feinstein, and Marco Rubio. Alex Wong/Getty Images

It was in that same meeting that Trump expressed a desire to “take the guns first, go through due process second” when discussing the availability of firearms to people with mental illness. The comment sent shockwaves through Capitol Hill and in the media, though the NRA said Trump fully backed gun control and strong due process measure after a private meeting with him the following day.

‘I would kick his arse’

Last weekend, Trump again made a seemingly off-the-cuff remark that raised eyebrows. During a private dinner with Republican donors the president – possibly joking – suggested that the US should consider allowing a president to serve for life. He made the comment while praising Chinese President Xi Jinping for consolidating power, saying, “Maybe we’ll give that a shot someday.”

“He’s now president for life. President for life. And he’s great,” Trump said, according to a recording obtained by CNN. “And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great.”

Trump’s also been homing in on new nicknames, another feature of the presidential campaign. It was reported by The Washington Post last week after Trump again blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he apparently calls him “Mr. Magoo.” During a joke-filled speech to the Gridiron Club, a charitable journalistic organisation, at its annual dinner, Trump made reference to “Sleepy Joe” Biden, who may very well end up as his Democratic opponent in 2020.

Trump then took the remarks a step further, suggesting that he would “kick his arse,” referencing a past comment Biden made about wanting to fight the then-Republican presidential nominee.

“There’s talk about Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe, getting into the race,” Trump said, according to a pool report. “You know what he said, ‘I want to take him behind the barn.’ … Just trust me, I would kick his arse. Boy, would be easy. Oh, would be easy.”

He joked that Biden couldn’t possibly become president because of his penchant for making “outrageous statements.”

Trump transitioned into ripping billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who is rumoured to be considering a 2020 presidential bid of her own.

“And Oprah. Oh … here’s my next one,” Trump said. “Oprah, I don’t think she’s ever been hit verbally yet. Right? She’s led a charmed life. She’s done a great job. … She used to love me … I was on one of her last shows, ‘The Trump Family,’ We’re going to have to replay that for her. We’re going to have to.”

The president ended the bit by offering the divine intervention Winfrey is reportedly seeking before making such a decision.

“She says she’ll run only if she gets the go ahead from the Almighty,” he said. “All right Oprah, go ahead and run.”