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Trump pelted Reince Priebus with questions about Wisconsin badgers

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When Reince Priebus was the White House chief of staff, President Donald Trump repeatedly asked him whether badgers, the state animal of Priebus’s home state of Wisconsin, are mean to people, how they “work,” and how aggressive they can get.

That’s according to “Sinking In The Swamp: How Trump’s Minions and Misfits Poisoned Washington,” a new book by Daily Beast reporters Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng.

Priebus served as Trump’s chief of staff for rougly six months, from when Trump took office to the end of July 2017.

During that time, Trump would often “waste Priebus’s time” during briefings about foreign and domestic policy by pelting him with questions about badgers.

Here’s what the book says about the president’s fascination with badgers:

After Trump was reminded that the short-legged omnivore was practically synonymous with the Badger State, he’d make a point of bringing it up at seemingly random occasions to his beleaguered chief of staff.

“Are they mean to people?” Trump at least twice asked Priebus in the opening months of his presidency. “Or are they friendly creatures?” The president would also ask if Priebus had any photos of badgers he could show him, and if Priebus could carefully explain to him how badgers “work” exactly.

He wanted Reince — resident White House badger historian, apparently — to explain to him Wisconsin’s obsession with the animal, how the little critters function and behave, what kind of food they like, and how aggressive or deadly they could be when presented with perceived existential threats.

Trump also wanted to know if the badger had a “personality” or if it was boring. What kind of damage could a badger to do a person with its flashy, sharp claws?

An obviously enthralled president would stare at Priebus as the aide struggled for sufficiently placating answers, all the while trying to gently veer the conversation back to whether we were going to do a troop surge in Afghanistan or strip millions of Americans of healthcare coverage.

The president also has a habit of grilling his advisers on other topics of interest to him, according to the book.

At one point, he reportedly asked his space policy advisers about garbage, posing questions like:

  • “Where does it go?”
  • “Where does it crash to earth?”
  • “What exactly is up there, circling the globe?”
  • “Who, or what, is creating all this space garbage?”
  • “Is this a national security threat?”

Priebus, meanwhile, was forced out of his job at the end of July 2017 and replaced with Gen. John Kelly, who previously served as Secretary of Homeland Security. Kelly was eventually let go as well and replaced by Mick Mulvaney, the head of the Office of Management and Budget. Mulvaney is currently serving in an acting capacity and is widely expected to leave his post in the near future.

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