Executive Branch

There You Go Again

Benjamin Wittes
Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 9:06 AM

The President has once again tweeted approval of a critical article that he appears not to have read. 

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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Well, the President’s at it again.

You may recall the events of last Friday, when President Donald Trump tweeted out an approving note about my piece on the 9th Circuit’s decision refusing to grant a stay of the temporary restraining order placed against Trump’s executive order on immigration.

As it turned out, Trump likely did not read the essay itself, but rather saw a pull quote from it on Morning Joe and decided to tweet it out without checking the rest of the text. If Trump had read my essay, he would have discovered that I referred to the White House as malevolent and incompetent and ultimately felt that the 9th Circuit reached the correct decision in the travel ban case, notwithstanding its failure to cite the underlying statute at issue.

This kind of shoot-from-the-hip-tweeting-an-apparently-unread-article-that-doesn’t-say-what-the-president-thinks-it-says-because-he-saw-something-on-TV-and-nobody-vets-the-tweet-before-he-sends-it-out style of governance apparently wasn’t an aberration.

This morning, Trump tweeted:

This time, Trump appears to have been watching Fox and Friends, which re-aired a clip early this morning of Eli Lake discussing his Bloomberg View column on the departure of Lt. General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor.

Trump is correct that Lake criticizes the intelligence community for leaking information on former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s phone calls with the Russian ambassador to the United States. However, he may want to read the rest of the article. Here are some other things Lake writes in his column:

If we are to believe the Trump White House, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn just resigned because he lied about his conversations with Russia's ambassador to the vice president. As White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway told NBC's "Today Show" on Tuesday: "Misleading the vice president really was the key here."

That sounds about as credible as when the president told CIA employees that the media had invented the story about his enmity toward the spy agency, not even two weeks after he had taken to Twitter to compare the CIA to Nazis. It's about as credible as President Donald Trump's insistence that it didn't rain during his inauguration. Or that millions of people had voted illegally in the election he just won.

The point here is that for a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it's strange that Flynn's "lie" to Pence would get him fired. It doesn't add up.

Lake has responded on Twitter:

I want to reiterate that these episodes, while amusing and harmless in and of themselves, should scare people. What if the object of the tweet were a foreign nation? What if the tweet were hostile, as many of the President’s tweets are? It’s not a healthy thing to have a president who watches TV and responds in public with literally no idea what he’s responding to.


Benjamin Wittes is editor in chief of Lawfare and a Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. He is the author of several books.

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