“I’m clearly renting space inside the guy’s head,” Obama told one of his aides at the White House soon after Trump was elected in November 2016, according to a New York Times story published Sunday.
The Times story explores the former president's ongoing entanglement with now-President Trump, 74.
The paper's new article also examines how the former president, 58, chooses to respond to Trump's attacks and conspiracy theories, which have not abated ahead of the likely face-off between him and Obama's former vice president, Joe Biden, in November's general election.
Since 2017, Obama has frequently opted not to respond to Trump's many tweets and complaints about him or has chosen to do so in somewhat indirect ways, without naming Trump. (In a 2018 speech at the University of Illinois, he said Trump was "a symptom, not the cause" of the current divisive moment.)
The animosity between them goes beyond Trump reversing Obama-era policies. Trump infamously fanned the flames of the racist theory that Obama wasn't born in the U.S. and, since taking office, Trump has accused his predecessor of various vague but serious wrongs — including "treason."
"The Obama/Biden Administration is the most CORRUPT in HISTORY!" Trump tweeted last week, in a characteristic all-caps slam.
“This is personal for Trump; it is all about President Obama and demolishing his legacy. It’s his obsession,” Omarosa Manigault Newman told the Times. A former Apprentice contestant, Newman was decried as "disgusting" by Trump after she wrote a book following her 2017 firing from the White House.
President Donald Trump (left) and former President Barack Obama walk together on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2017.
Elsewhere in his post-presidency, Obama has focused on his eponymous foundation's work — including leadership for the next generation — as well as a Netflix-backed production company with his wife and some leisure time.
The former president and former First Lady Michelle Obama recently purchased an $11.75 million home on Martha's Vineyard and have also been busy with their media company, Higher Ground, which released the Oscar-winning documentary American Factory last year.
President Obama is also writing a book, though it is unclear when it will be published. Mrs. Obama published her own memoir, Becoming, to record-breaking sales in late 2018.
In recent months — amid the backdrop of the novel coronavirus pandemic, rising racial tensions following the killing of George Floyd and the upcoming 2020 election — President Obama has spoken out about the Trump administration, though usually in more veiled ways.
He tweeted in April about "the consequences of those who denied warnings of a pandemic," seemingly referring to Trump's response to the coronavirus.
In a private call that leaked last month, however, the former president said Trump's handling of the coronavirus was "an absolute chaotic disaster." Since Floyd's death and the resulting national demonstrations against racial injustice, Obama has also taken a role in public discussions about police reform.
His most overt political statements this year have been in support of his former vice president, for whom he has campaigned and helped fundraise.
"One thing that everybody has learned by now: The Republicans occupying the White House and running the U.S. Senate are not interested in progress. They’re interested in power,” Obama said in his endorsement of Biden in April.
“I don’t think he is hesitant. I think he is strategic,” Dan Pfeiffer, one of Obama's longtime advisers, told the Times in its Sunday story. “He has always been strategic about using his voice; it’s his most valuable commodity.”
Then President-elect Donald Trump (left) sits with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in November 2016.
Obama and Trump both opted out of a longstanding White House tradition in which the current president welcomes his predecessor to unveil his and the former first lady's presidential portraits, according to an NBC News report earlier this year.
In contrast, former President George W. Bush willingly returned to the White House to unveil his portrait when Obama invited him while in office.
"We may have our differences politically," Obama told Bush then, in 2012, "but the presidency transcends those differences."