One of former President Donald J. Trump’s most consistent personal traits — one that his advisers say helped him avoid even worse legal danger — was his refusal to communicate via text or email. mail.
Mr. Trump, 76, who is heading into his third presidential campaign and is still under the scrutiny of investigators on multiple fronts, has finally become a texter, according to three people with knowledge of his new habit. His messages recently appeared on the phones of surprised recipients, they said.
The former president’s resistance to texting frustrated House Jan. 6 committee investigators as they attempted to track his thoughts and actions as he worked to overturn the 2020 election. In his testimony before committee, the former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., said he texted White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the attack on the Capitol because his father ” don’t text”.
That changed around the beginning of this year. Friends, confidants and even people not particularly close to Mr. Trump began receiving text messages from his cellphone, most of them described as harmless, like New Year’s greetings or political comments. A spokesperson for Mr. Trump declined to comment.
The former president has long been on the phone constantly, but only to talk about it — or, before he was kicked off Twitter, to tweet streams. (The former aide who helped set up his Twitter account once told Politico that when Mr. Trump, who initially relied on assistants to write his posts, started tweeting on his own, it looked like the scene. from the movie “Jurassic Park” when velociraptors learned to open doors.)
For years, people who corresponded with him sent him text messages, which always went unanswered. He was unreachable by email. He sometimes asked aides to email reporters, calling the missives “threads”, like a telegram.
Now, his belated adoption of what has long been a generation-spanning default mode of communication not only signals a willingness to join the world of LOLs and BRBs, but also a slight change from his aversion to leaving paper trails. or electronic.
People who have worked for Mr. Trump in the White House and at his private company say he bragged about being “smart” about leaving almost no documentation of his communications and discussions in meetings. This included ripped notes taken in real time by a junior legal associate in his offices in the 1990s when Mr Trump spotted the man doodling, according to a consultant who worked for him then.
Those who witnessed his visceral aversion to record keeping firsthand said they were shocked to learn of his new electronic habit.
“Has he started taking notes too?” John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, curtly texted when informed of the former president’s texts.
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Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Bolton, who wrote one of the most harrowing accounts of the Trump presidency, for taking notes during the meetings.
Mr. Trump also chastised Donald F. McGahn II, his first White House attorney, for the notes he took. Mr. McGahn, questioned by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III during the Russia investigation, described telling Mr. Trump that he took notes because he was a “real lawyer.”
“I had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He didn’t take notes,” Mr. McGahn recounted as Mr. Trump said, referring to his ruthless fixer and longtime mentor who became the prototype of what Mr. Trump was looking for in a lawyer.
A former Trump White House official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak candidly, described the former president’s penchant for avoiding leaving files behind so there was ‘nothing to follow’ as a possible “parable from the time of Roy Cohn”.
The fact that Mr Trump is now texting has alarmed some of his associates, who are worried about what he might say. Still, they were relieved by another change: His phone now sends calls that aren’t from his contact numbers to voicemail, according to two people familiar with the change.
That change came this month, after an NBC reporter called Mr Trump directly during Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s desperate fight to be elected Speaker of the House. Mr. Trump took over, giving a brief interview that created political heartburn for Republicans.
Mr. Trump’s position on emojis is still unclear.