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What surprises this presidential historian about Trump and other presidents

There are two kinds of White House staffers, according to presidential historian Doug Wead: “Those who want to help Trump save the world and those who want to save the world from Trump.” Wead attributes that insight to Trump advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner in his new book “Inside Trump’s White House,” which went on sale at the end of November.

Wead told Yahoo Finance’s On the Move that he had access to Trump family members and insiders who described the inner workings of the Trump White House. Wead said Trump’s critics misunderstand the strategy involved in Trump’s actions. “Having served on senior staff at the White House I know that it’s a lot more calculated than anyone would ever imagine,” Wead said.

Wead went into this latest project thinking Trump’s policy calculations were like other administrations he’s covered. “But I was blown away,” he said. “There is calculation in the chaos.”

Trump’s strategy, according to Wead, is similar to the ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War” who is reported to have said, “In the midst of chaos there is opportunity.”

“That’s what he (Trump) does,” Wead said. “He blows up NATO. He rebuilds it, raises $100 billion. NATO is stronger than ever. He blows up Nafta and rebuilt it better than it had been before.”

Impeachment hurts Trump personally

Despite the policy victories and strong economy, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey found 49% of Americans approve of the decision to impeach Trump and 42% disapprove. Trump, on vacation in Florida, called the impeachment “bogus” in a tweet early Thursday morning.

Trump takes the impeachment personally, Wead said.

“I think it hurts him. But he would never acknowledge that or say that,” Wead added. “There's a part of him that is going to survive, no matter what happens. And he'll tell himself that, and maybe he's better at that than most people are. But still, he has to feel that this is personal.”

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media following a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the military at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Wead said Trump believes the impeachment hurts his opponents politically more than it hurts him. Wead suspects that Trump believes that “they're doing it even if it's self-destructive because they want to hurt him personally.”

Trump is like other presidents

The six presidents Wead has known personally were all good listeners. “You only see Trump when he's talking, so there were many times where I had to say, wait, wait, wait, wait. Because he was interviewing me. He is a good listener. They're all good listeners,” Wead said.

And he points out that Trump, unlike his predecessors, had no political experience when he took office. “There's a limit to what he can do without offending his base or the money or supporters he has. With this president, he can turn on a dime. He can do something that conservatives don't like or liberals don't like or Republicans don't like.”

Wead praises Trump for adding people to his staff who don’t like him and disagree with him, people like former National Security Adviser John Bolton. Trump “likes a good argument. He likes them to fight it out. He wants you to fight with him and tell him why you think he's wrong,” Wead said. But ultimately the final decision lies with Trump, Wead said, adding that “he makes a decision and expects you to fall into line.”

Adam Shapiro is co-anchor of Yahoo Finance On the Move.

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