(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT)
President Donald Trump is playing a dangerous game. He is adding a very disruptive ingredient to his governing approach – potentially alienating and confusing his own staff and the lawyers who are trying to defend him in his legal battle to crack down on terrorism and illegal immigration. In the process, Trump is giving everyone a window into his mind, and the view is filled with anger and an eagerness for combat, not unity or conciliation.
Trump is using Twitter to raise doubts about his own Justice Department and, indirectly, about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his choice for that job. There are now media reports that Sessions has offered to resign and it’s not clear where he stands with his boss.
In addition, Republican lawyers warn that Trump’s tweets are undermining his legal arguments to uphold a travel ban on people from six Muslim-majority countries. Trump issued that ban with an executive order that has been blocked by lower courts and the question is now at the Supreme Court. This week, Trump used Twitter to attack the Justice Department for what Trump said was a flawed legal strategy to persuade the high court to uphold the travel ban. Trump said the department, headed by Sessions, mistakenly issued a “watered down, politically correct” version of the executive order that the lower courts stopped earlier.
After an initial outburst against the department’s softer approach, Trump was back on Twitter Monday night, declaring: “That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”
Among those criticizing Trump was George Conway, who recently took himself out of consideration for a top job at Justice and who is the husband of senior Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. “These tweets may make some ppl feel better,” George Conway wrote on Twitter, “but they certainly won’t help OSG [the Office of Solicitor General at Justice] get 5 votes in SCOTUS which his what actually matters. Sad.” George Conway later added: “I still VERY, VERY STRONGLY support POTUS, his Admin, policies, the executive order…and of course, my wonderful wife. Which is why I said what I said this morning….The pt cannot be stressed enough that tweets on legal matters…seriously undermine Admin agenda and POTUS.” Conway said those “who support him, as I do, need to reinforce that point and not be shy about it.”
Overall, Trump typically wraps his Twitter rants in an angry and dismissive tone, and his diatribes frequently go far afield from the issues that Trump says are his top priorities, such as creating jobs, cutting taxes and overhauling the healthcare system. He even got into a public feud with London Mayor Sadiq Khan over how to respond to terrorism in the wake of the lethal attacks in London a week ago.
Trump’s major legislative accomplishment so far has been winning Senate confirmation for Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, which occurred in April. Trump’s overall agenda has stalled on Capitol Hill, and his allies say he needs to spend far more time working to revive it with members of Congress. “Any time they’re not talking about the economy or jobs, they know that’s not what the electorate is looking for,” said Republican pollster David Winston, who advises GOP leaders in Congress, in an interview with the Washington Post.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., told a Dallas TV station, “Unfortunately, the president has, I think, created problems for himself by his Twitter habit.” This is a commonly held view among GOP leaders in Congress.
But there appears to be a split in the White House on how seriously the public and the media should take Trump’s tweets. White House senior adviser Kellyanne Conway complained to NBC that the media have “this obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president.” Sebastian Gorka, a White House national security adviser, told CNN that Trump’s tweeting is in a different category from official pronouncements. “It’s not policy,” Gorka said. “It’s social media.” Gorka didn’t clarify what that means. Yet other Trump advisers say the tweets represent the president’s true feelings and should be taken very seriously. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, “Social media for the president is extremely important. It gives him the ability to speak directly to the people without the bias of the media filtering those types of communications.”
[PHOTOS: The Big Picture – May 2017]
Trump backed Sanders in a tweet Monday night, declaring, “The FAKE MSM [mainstream media] is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out….Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH.” Trump likes Twitter because he can communicate directly with his followers whenever he wants and without a media screen.
Meanwhile, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, recently named special counsel at the Justice Department, is investigating potentially improper links between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian meddling in the election. Mueller’s probe will provide ongoing temptations for Trump to lose his temper on Twitter, further jeopardizing the president’s congressional agenda and drawing attention away from his top priorities.