Donald Trump is said to love Fox Business star Lou Dobbs so much that he has him patched through to the Oval Office’s speaker phone for important meetings, undermining reported attempts to keep the president on a tight leash when it comes to information access.
After becoming White House Chief of Staff last year, John Kelly made moves to restrict the information Mr Trump sees and who has access to the president. But Mr Trump seems to disregard any controls Mr Kelly has put in place.
The president has summoned Mr Dobbs on the line for multiple senior-level meetings on issues such as trade and tax policy, sources familiar with the conversations told the Daily Beast.
Known for his pro-Trump coverage, anti-immigration views and opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, Canada and the US, Mr Dobbs has become one of the most prominent figures in the Fox family.
Mr Dobbs also pushed the Obama birther conspiracy theories promoted by Mr Trump, who asserted that Barack Obama was ineligible to be president because he was not a natural-born citizen of the US.
Mr Trump is said to have asked Mr Dobbs for his opinion before and after his senior aides or cabinet members have spoken, the Daily Beast reported. He also occasionally cut off officials so the television personality could jump in.
Towards the conclusion of one meeting, after Mr Dobbs said farewell and had gotten off the call, Mr Trump is said to have looked up, smiled, and told the room: “Love Lou”.
The report adds fuel to the idea that Fox hosts are part of Mr Trump’s unofficial cabinet. The president reportedly dines with Sean Hannity and former Fox executive Bill Shine on a regular basis. He is also said to consult with Jeanine Pirro, a former judge who is currently the host of Fox News’ Justice with Judge Jeanine.
It is not unheard of for a president to have relationships with television personalities. Mr Obama made multiple appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart during his presidency. There was also much speculation over his closed-door meetings with Mr Stewart in 2011 and 2014.
But a president asking a television host for their opinion during Oval Office meetings with cabinet officials appears to be unprecedented. And Mr Trump doing so could be causing headaches for Mr Kelly.
Last year, the chief of staff was said to be making sure he had the last word on what materials landed on the president’s desk – an apparent effort to slow down the policymaking process and bring more discipline to the chaotic White House.
Under the system, also used by previous administrations, the president is not supposed to view any information that has not been vetted, Politico said.
But Mr Trump continues to call up Mr Dobbs to riff on issues such as immigration, the Daily Beast said.
The president last October also sought the television host’s advice on who should be the new chair of the Federal Reserve.
“Do you have a preference, out of curiosity?” Mr Trump asked during an interview with Mr Dobbs.
Mr Dobbs said he did.
“Tell me who your preference is,” Mr Trump replied.
The free-wheeling Trump has said he likes to hear multiple points of view on issues.
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