In years to come, it will be endlessly fascinating going back and identifying every time a Trump tweet prompted “gotcha” journalism, only for the President to immediately turn around and pour cold water on hot takes.
Trump is deep into his first term and the press — and apparently Democrats on the Hill — still haven’t learned that he often uses his Twitter feed as idiot bait, handing out the reddest of meat and then laughingly revealing he’s changed his mind and the new red meat is in the next tweet. Or the next. And it could change by the day. Or maybe it won’t. Have fun journalists!
Whether or not one thinks it’s wise for the President to reveal his mind via social media is debatable, but one thing is for certain: he has the press firmly under control because they simply (and still) cannot help themselves. They are the living embodiment of the word triggered.
Take Trump’s Friday tweet about the Mueller report, where the president seemed to indicate his anxiety about the imminent release of the report that sought to investigate connections his 2016 presidential campaign may have had with Russia.
President Donald Trump on Friday insisted there should be no report from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, denouncing the investigation as “illegal.”
“So, if there was knowingly & acknowledged to be ‘zero’ crime when the Special Counsel was appointed, and if the appointment was made based on the Fake Dossier (paid for by Crooked Hillary) and now disgraced Andrew McCabe (he & all stated no crime), then the Special Counsel…should never have been appointed and there should be no Mueller Report,” the president tweeted Friday.
You can almost see Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s (D-CT) righteous “gotcha” grin in his Twitter response:
What about transparency makes you so afraid, Mr. President? https://t.co/ndxrPoYP10
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) March 16, 2019
Cut to Saturday morning, and Trump has decided to reveal that, in fact, he has no problem with the Mueller report being made public, and may even have asked leadership to let it be known GOP members should vote for transparency.
On the recent non-binding vote (420-0) in Congress about releasing the Mueller Report, I told leadership to let all Republicans vote for transparency. Makes us all look good and doesn’t matter. Play along with the game!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 16, 2019
The measure had already passed the house 420-0 on Thursday, but failed in the Senate with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) voting to block it.
“We let Mueller look at all things Trump related to collusion and otherwise,” Graham said about his decision to block. “Somebody needs to look at what happened on the other side and find out if the FBI and the DOJ had two systems, one supporting the person they wanted to win and one out to get the person they wanted to lose. Any American out there who did what Secretary Clinton did, you’d be in jail now. The question I want to know is, does anybody other than me believe that?”
So Graham voted his conscience, and perhaps that vote influenced Trump to take to Twitter knowing his statements were academic at that point since the voting had occurred a day prior.
But, as this piece from The Intelligencer makes very clear, it’s never a very good idea to say definitively what the President wants.
Obviously, the president wants [the Mueller report] under wraps.
By Saturday, of course, that wasn’t so obvious after all. And each time Trump gets an outlet to cover a tweet he fires off as proof of corruption or bad behavior, he flips the switch. And the cumulative effect isn’t a loss of credibility for Trump. It’s a loss of credibility for the press. Maybe one day they’ll figure that out.