WASHINGTON — White House officials are pushing back on concerns that President Donald Trump appeared exhausted from his 12-day Asia trip when he spoke rapidly and took several sips of water during a televised recap of the grueling tour.
Trump’s shaky 23-minute performance Wednesday came a day after his return and drew widespread ridicule online. The episode revived clips of Trump mocking Republican primary opponent Sen. Marco Rubio for a similarly awkward, mid-speech water break.
Multiple officials and aides were eager to promote Trump’s stamina with The Associated Press on Thursday. In interviews, they said chief of staff John Kelly had ordered a day off for staff traveling with the president and advised Trump to rest as well. However, they said, Trump insisted on quickly summarizing his trip for the American people.
“The staff is exhausted, but he wanted to go out there,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
Trump worked on the address nearly the entire flight back to the U.S. on Tuesday, senior adviser Stephen Miller said.
Communications director Hope Hicks said she briefly pretended to be asleep when Trump visited the staff cabin aboard Air Force One to seek out Sanders.
The officials said they worried that Trump would grow frustrated with the extended time on the road but added that their concerns were unwarranted. “He never complained,” Hicks said. “He was working the entire time.”
Sanders said Trump was unfazed by hopping across so many time zones. “He’s twice my age and he has twice my energy,” she said.
As far as the gulps of water, the officials said the travel had left Trump parched.
Trump had boasted to reporters aboard Air Force One about how well he was holding up on the trip.
“A lot of people said it’s almost physically impossible for someone to go through 12 days,” he said. “Anybody that took the bet, pick up your money, OK?”