Trump’s uncontrollable tweeting triggers deeper anxiety among advisers
It took nearly 24 hours for President Donald Trump to tweet about the news that his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents — a delay that Trump’s advisers said was not uncommon for the president, who often tweets after catching up on cable news.
Many Republicans at first saw the radio silence as a welcome sign of restraint.
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But by Sunday, the notoriously hot-headed president had already claimed Flynn was fired earlier this year in part for lying to the FBI and had moved on to accusing the nation’s top law-enforcement agency of being “in tatters.”
“Worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness,” he tweeted.
The tweets all combined to reignite fears among people close to Trump that the president is not taking the special counsel’s investigation seriously enough and is getting bad advice from his legal team.
Trump supporters, former campaign aides and former administration officials are beginning to privately raise red flags that the White House can’t keep up with the president’s own tweets and doesn’t have a coherent messaging strategy on the Russia investigation, according to interviews with a half-dozen people close to the president.
The people close to the president stressed that they are not worried that special counsel Robert Mueller will ensnare the president or find evidence of collusion. But they nonetheless fear that the near-daily revelations about the investigation will overtake Trump’s presidency.
“There’s no quarterback. There’s no strategy. They’re literally making it up as they go along,” said one of the people. “We’re in very dangerous territory.”
A White House spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
In New York this weekend, where the president headlined three fundraisers, Trump’s tweets were a frequent topic of conversation, with some donors privately raising concerns that the investigation could shift attention from tax reform, according to donors close to the administration.
“As a Trump supporter, I think that the president tweeting about Mueller’s investigation absolutely distracts his administration and the public from the mission at hand, which is to get tax reform done before the end of the year,” said Houston-based energy executive Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor. “His tweeting certainly shows he isn’t listening to the advice of counsel, which must be telling him to say nothing publicly or privately.”
Senior White House officials, taking their cues from chief of staff John Kelly, insist that they can’t — and won’t — control what the president does on social media. Asked last week what he does when Trump unleashes provocative tweets, one senior White House official said simply, “Ignore them.”
Another senior administration official said efforts to exert control over Trump’s tweeting were a “lost cause,” adding that aides have also had little success limiting the president’s TV-watching habit. “TV is what it is,” the official said.
Trump’s anger with the Russia investigation is nothing new; he has called it a “witch hunt,” and he insisted as far back as last year that there was no collusion between his team and Moscow.
But Trump’s allies are warning in public and in private that he shouldn’t underestimate the impact of the investigation.
Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, a Trump friend who speaks to him frequently, said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that the Mueller investigation “poses an existential threat to the Trump presidency.”
“He thinks there’s nothing to it, and [says that] collusion never took place,” Ruddy, who said he hadn’t spoken to Trump this weekend, said in an email to POLITICO. “I think he’s 100 percent right, there was no collusion. But Mueller is looking for much more than collusion; the indictments and pleas to date demonstrate that.”