Donald Trump is having a very bad week so far and its only Tuesday. Yesterday’s tweet storm was more off the rails than usual. He accused Barack Obama of colluding or obstructing or something — Hillary emails? Details from The Daily Beast:
During his latest tweet-storm Monday morning, President Donald Trump accused Barack Obama of having “colluded or obstructed” on Russia.
“The reason that President Obama did NOTHING about Russia after being notified by the CIA of meddling is that he expected Clinton would win,” @realDonaldTrump tweeted.
“[Obama] did not want to ‘rock the boat.’ He didn't ‘choke,’ he colluded or obstructed, and it did the Dems and Crooked Hillary no good.”
On Monday morning, two White House officials told The Daily Beast that the president was referring to President Obama colluding not with Russian officials but with other Democrats—which amounts to the strange gripe of Trump complaining about Obama talking to other Democrats. ("I accept your premise that [the tweet] wasn't necessarily clear," one official conceded.) The White House comms office did not respond to requests for comment on Trump’s allegation that Obama “colluded.”
So Obama is now colluding with other Democrats. Okey doke. This morning’s twitter tempest was scarcely better. It too reflected confusion on the one hand and deluded conflation on the other:
Fake News CNN is looking at big management changes now that they got caught falsely pushing their phony Russian stories. Ratings way down! 5:30 a.m.
What Trump claimed was happening in these two tweets is not even remotely the case. Three journalists resigned from CNN yesterday, yes. “Big management changes,” and “got caught pushing phony stories,” no way.
Three CNN staffers have resigned following the publication and subsequent retraction of a story linking a Trump transition team member to the Russia-related investigations. CNN already had processes in place for anonymous sources, requiring a sign-off by an executive editor before publication. Now, extra restrictions are being placed on stories connected to Russia, according to a leaked memo published by BuzzFeed on Sunday, requiring further scrutiny by higher-ups.
According to a CNN source, the standard procedures in place were not followed for the story. The legal team had not fully reviewed the final piece and was concerned and, in some ways surprised, when they saw it had been published before the sign-off.
Trump’s histrionics on this occasion, as on so many others, are not related to anything that actually happened. You don’t need to study psychiatry in Vienna to figure out the obvious, that Trump Russia is driving him up the wall and he’s not coping very well or staying very calm.
President Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 a.m. on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia. His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud. It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.
Trump’s grievances and moods often bleed into one another. Frustration with the investigation stews inside him until it bubbles up in the form of rants to aides about unfair cable television commentary or as slights aimed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein.
Some in the White House fret over what they view as the president’s fits of rage, and Trump’s longtime friends say his mood has been more sour than at any point since they have known him. They privately worry about his health, noting that he appears to have gained weight in recent months and that the darkness around his eyes reveals his stress.
“What’s playing out is a psychological drama, not just a political drama or a legal drama,” said Peter Wehner, who was an aide in George W. Bush’s White House and has frequently been critical of Trump. “The president’s psychology is what’s driving so much of this, and it’s alarming because it shows a lack of self-control, a tremendous tropism. . . . He seems to draw psychic energy from creating chaos and disorder.”
If Trump’s family, only, or family and a few staffers and friends were witnessing Trump’s increasingly unhinged tweet storms, that would be one thing. The entire world is watching this debacle deteriorate further from day to day. The Washington Post published an article, “Trump’s twitter feed is a goldmine for foreign spies.” Isn’t that a cheerful thought?
Every time President Trump tweets, journalists and Twitter followers attempt to analyze what he means. Intelligence agencies around the world do, too: They’re trying to determine what vulnerabilities the president of the United States may have. And he’s giving them a lot to work with. Intelligence agencies try to answer these main questions when looking at a rival head of state: Who is he as a person? What type of leader is he? How does that compare to what he strives to be or presents himself as? What can we expect from him? And how can we use this insight to our advantage?
As president, Trump has continued to show himself to be quick to anger if he feels personally attacked. And he’s eager to take credit when he thinks he’s been influential. His tweet this month appearing to welcome the rift between Saudi Arabia and Qatar is a classic example: Trump declared that the standoff arose because he had demanded that gulf states stop funding radical ideology. (It did not.)
Trump’s tweets also clearly reveal how sensitive he is about the investigation into Russia’s involvement in last year’s campaign, especially any suggestion that it diminishes his victory “....Trump/Russia story was an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election. Perhaps Trump just ran a great campaign?”he tweeted.
In Trump’s case, though, his Twitter feed doesn’t serve quite that role. The president’s frequent contradiction of his own aides also provides useful intelligence for foreign analysts. Last month, Trump tweeted that it was “not possible ” for administration officials to be perfectly accurate in describing what his White House is doing. Why not? Is the White House not coordinating messaging? Has Trump defined his own course of action, regardless of what his Cabinet or staff has been told? Policy and public diplomacy typically require interagency coordination, but Trump forces the U.S. government to react to his whims instead — which makes his Twitter feed that much more important to analyze and understand.
Analysts can glean information about Trump’s sleep patterns from the time of day or night when he tweets, showing which topics keep him up, his stress level and his state of mind. Twitter also often reveals what Trump is watching on TV and when, as well as what websites he turns to for news and analysis. Knowing this can be useful for foreign governments when they are planning media events or deciding where to try to seek coverage of their version of world events.
Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek wrote about “government by Twitter” the week before the inauguration. Nothing has changed except to get worse:
“...government by Twitter, a bizarre new world where an internet communications platform combines with an impulsive president-elect to create global chaos in investment markets, overseas halls of power and domestic agencies. In the morning or afternoon or the middle of night, Trump delivers 140-character proclamations on policy and piffle in arbitrary flashes of power and spite that shoot across the virtual firmament without warning. Discussions and debates about their content in the news media and on the internet follow for a few hours—Why can’t flag burning be banned? Why is a new Air Force One being built?—before moving on, unresolved, to another Trump topic d’Tweet.”
Eichenwald concluded back in January, in a comparison with FDR’s fireside chats, “tweeting is not leading.” And finally, “Reagan was nicknamed the great communicator; Trump is on path to be labeled the lousy tweeter.” Moreover, the lousy tweets are being documented and analyzed by foreign powers inimical to the United States’ interests and these powers are using them to find a means to aggress against us. Nothing is being done to remedy this situation. Steve Bannon is considering a communications “brain trust,” with Kellyanne “Alternative Facts” Conway at the helm. The Washington Post said this:
Trump is hungry to see his spokesmen and spokeswomen more aggressively defend him and take the fight directly to his critics, people familiar with his thinking said. The White House is also considering a communications “brain trust” — basically, a media team equipped to handle incoming and outgoing issues, as well as everything from surrogate response to regional and national media. Conway has been asked to play a larger role on the communications team, where she could possibly oversee surrogacy and other areas.
Maybe it’s time to simply make a big offering to the Great God of Twitter, a being that we shall hereby call “Covfefe,” and just hope for the best.