From his big appetite to his big button: the lighter side of a year with Trump

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Some of the more memorable moments from AP reporters tasked with covering this whirlwind presidency

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has proven himself an unconventional leader time and time again in his first year in office. Here are some of the more memorable moments from the AP reporters tasked with covering this whirlwind presidency:


Midway through my April 23, 2017, interview with President Donald Trump, he reached over and pressed a red button on his desk in the Oval Office.

It didn’t trigger a nuclear launch or send advisers scurrying into the room. Instead, a White House butler walked in with a single glass of Diet Coke on a silver tray for the commander in chief.

Trump was still relatively new in office and seemed to relish the trappings of his new digs. Moments before pressing the button, in the middle of an answer about his dealings with China, he said to me without skipping a beat: “Do you want a Coke or anything?”

Months later, Trump would tweet about another “button” in a taunt to the North Koreans, declaring, “my Button works!”

In reality, there’s no such thing as a nuclear button for the president to launch a nuclear attack. But his Diet Coke button indeed works.

— By Julie Pace



Before dawn in a windowless room in a Seoul hotel, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders gathered a group of reporters sworn to secrecy to inform them of their next destination.

Sanders held up a slip of paper, saying this was how she was told to convey the sensitive information. It read: “DMZ.”

Ever the showman, Trump had hoped to punctuate his war of words with Pyongyang with a surprise Nov. 7 visit to the Demilitarized Zone, the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea.

But he never made it.

His convoy of helicopters was just five minutes from the border when heavy fog forced them to turn back. Trump urged another try but, after nearly an hour of waiting, military pilots and the Secret Service deemed it unsafe to make another try.

In a rage, Trump told an aide he thought the failed flight made him look weak.

“He’s pretty frustrated,” Sanders, wearing pearls and a borrowed military jacket, told reporters later.

— By Jonathan Lemire



“Handshake?” members of the German media prodded at the start of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first Oval Office meeting with Trump in March.

The two leaders never locked hands during the photo op. It was an awkward tête-à-tête, one of multiple odd interactions between the new president and other world leaders in his first year.

There was Trump’s white-knuckle grip and stare-down with French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump’s mangled attempt at an interlocking handshake with world leaders in the Philippines. His gone-viral shove of Montenegro’s leader at NATO headquarters.

Trump’s highlight reel also includes a brief hand-holding moment with a baffled British Prime Minister Theresa May, a 19-second handshake/pat-down with Japan’s Shinzo Abe, and multiple bear hugs with India’s Narendra Modi.

Taken together, the encounters turned the tradition of staid grip-and-grins between world leaders on its head.

— By Ken Thomas



Trump beckoned a trio of reporters into his private dining room with a wave.

Just off the Oval Office, the room featured a newly installed 60-inch television and a chandelier, selected personally by the president, that he boasted restored the character of the room.

Surrounded by briefing papers and periodicals, Trump grabbed the remote and proceeded to offer color commentary on congressional testimony earlier that day from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

“Watch them start to choke like dogs,” he said, already well versed in what he was to show us over and again.

It was a front-row seat to the president’s voluminous media diet and a window into his consumption habits: Fox News programs recorded on TiVo, and later, two scoops of ice cream at dinner.

Everyone else at the dinner was served one scoop.

— By Zeke Miller



Trump was hosting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for a February weekend of golf and get-to-know-you meetings at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, when the press pool traveling with the new president was hastily summoned.

Reporters were led past a wedding arch on the lawn to an ornate ballroom, where the two leaders soon delivered brief statements responding to North Korea’s first ballistic missile test of Trump’s presidency. Party music from the wedding could be heard in the distance as they spoke.

It was an early indication of Trump’s very different approach to foreign provocations.

Earlier in the evening, it would later emerge, Trump and Abe sat on the club’s terrace, in full view of dues-paying club members and their guests, working out a response to the missile test.

Then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted no classified material had been discussed.

All the while, members snapped photos. One guest posed with the military official carrying the nuclear football.

— By Jill Colvin



It was the presidential version of “You like me, you really like me.”

At Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting in June, his top aides gathered at a long table in the Cabinet Room and reporters filed in for an opening photo opportunity.

Usually journalists are allowed into these gatherings for only a few remarks before being ushered out.

Not this time. After the president extoled his young administration, he asked the other participants to weigh in.

One by one, the Cabinet secretaries spoke out, touching on policy but most focused on something else: the president’s ego, singing his praises in the kind of glowing language typically reserved for greeting cards.

Vice President Mike Pence called his job “the greatest privilege of my life.”

Former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus thanked Trump for the “opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda.”

Priebus was ousted the following month. But the meeting lives on as one of the oddest moments of Trump’s first year.

— By Catherine Lucey



White House reporters were anticipating a press statement, topic unknown, late in the day on May 9.

Then it came: a three-paragraph announcement from then-press secretary Spicer. I read it quickly and blurted out to my colleagues: “Oh my God. He just fired Jim Comey.”

Trump roiled Washington by firing the FBI director overseeing the investigation into possible election-year collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian government officials. Trump had seethed about the investigation leading up to Comey’s dismissal.

He sent his longtime bodyguard and confidant Keith Schiller to hand-deliver Comey’s termination letter. But apparently no one bothered to check on Comey’s whereabouts. The director was in Los Angeles, speaking to agents at the FBI field office, and learned from TV that he had just been fired.

At the White House, Spicer struggled to explain the stunning decision.

Between media interviews, the press secretary collected his thoughts while waiting among the hedges.

— By Darlene Superville

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