It was extraordinary for a president to intervene in matters typically left to the FAA or the Department of Transportation. Asked whether President Barack Obama was ever directly involved in a decision to ground planes or issue urgent safety mandates during his tenure, former transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said, “No, never, not one time.”
In public and in private, Trump presented himself as a key arbiter in deciding whether the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 planes would be able to keep flying, according to White House and administration officials interviewed for this report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss internal deliberations.
Rather than simply being briefed on the FAA’s findings in the days after the crash, Trump played an active role, participating in phone calls with Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg and other stakeholders, and offering his thoughts about the aviation industry. Asked by reporters about the decision to ground the plane, Trump left the impression that he had taken the lead, saying it was a “very tough decision.”