Through a little less than a year in office, President Donald Trump has tweeted more than 2,300 times, using Twitter to attack political opponents, announce policy shifts, rant about the media, spread propaganda and, in frequent pitched outbursts, seek to undermine public confidence in the Russia investigation.
When it’s been suggested he set his phone aside and more meticulously manage his message, Trump reacts angrily. And, on occasion, philosophically. “My use of social media is not Presidential,” he wrote on July 1, “it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”
As Trump’s presidency has leapt from controversy to scandal to achievement and, inevitably, back home to grievance – it’s been a path few can reliably predict, but one we can trace via his telltale Twitter feed.
Here are 17 tweets that (begin to) tell the story of the White House in 2017.
1. “If something happens blame him …”
Tweeting on Super Bowl Sunday, Trump lashed out at a federal judge who put a nationwide hold on his first travel ban. That executive order would have barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days and suspended the entire US refugee program for 120 days, with Syrian refugees locked out indefinitely. But it set off mass protests and was soon tied up in the courts. The Supreme Court has allowed a third iteration of the ban to go into effect pending appeal.
2. “… enemy of the American people…”
Trump vilified the press throughout the campaign and carried on, undeterred, into the White House. Still, this tweet marked a jarring escalation between his administration and those who cover it.
3. “… Obama had my ‘wires tapped’…”
Trump’s view of himself as the persecuted enemy of the “deep state” is on early display here, as he alleges that former President Barack Obama ordered a wiretap of his campaign headquarters. The White House never produced any evidence to back the claim and both James Comey, before his firing, and Trump’s own Justice Department have said they’re not aware any exists.
4. “We must fight them …”
Relations are cuddlier today, with Republicans in the House and Senate delivering a tax bill to Trump before the holidays, but the failed effort to repeal Obamacare exposed rifts in the party – and set off a series of Twitter tantrums. Trump has repeatedly excoriated GOP lawmakers, in public, over their opposition to his agenda.
5. “James Comey better hope …”
Days after firing the former FBI director, Trump suggested there might be recordings of their White House discussions. The claim prompted Comey to speak up and share details of those conversations, including one in which he alleges Trump asked him to lay off former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. On June 22, Trump tweeted that he “did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”
6. “… the single greatest witch hunt …”
On Wednesday night, May 17, the Justice Department appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee a federal investigation into Russia, the 2016 campaign and any potential collusion between Moscow and the Trump team. That evening, the White House released a statement from the President.
It read: “As I have stated many times, a thorough investigation will confirm what we already know – there was no collusion between my campaign and any foreign entity. I look forward to this matter concluding quickly. In the meantime, I will never stop fighting for the people and the issues that matter most to the future of our country.”
Then morning came – and with it, the tweets.
7. “…from a face-lift.”
Trump has directed many of his nastiest Twitter attacks at high-profile women. In particular, those who might speak ill of him on television. On a Thursday morning in late June, he set his sights on “Morning Joe” co-anchor Mika Brzezinski, who along with co-host Joe Scarborough had abandoned their once chummy relationship with Trump as the 2016 campaign ramped up.
“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore),” he tweeted. “Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
8. “… our beleaguered A.G …”
By all accounts, Trump is still knotted up in anger over Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from all things Russia – a move that helped pave the way for the appointment of a special counsel. A day before this tweet, Trump griped that it was “very sad” how Republicans were doing “very little to protect their President.” Trump’s view of loyalty, and the resentment he feels when it’s not delivered in full, has propelled a number of his most damaging missteps.
9. “After consultation with my Generals and military experts …”
He continued: “…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
In a flurry of morning tweets, Trump in late July announced plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals serving “in any capacity” in the US armed forces. Federal judges have since blocked subsequent action and the Pentagon plans on enlisting transgender recruits in 2018. But the ad hoc declaration stirred up a mostly dormant culture war surrounding LGBT service at a time when top military officials seemed content with opening up the ranks.
10. “… I have just granted a full Pardon …”
On Friday night, August 25, as Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, Trump tweeted out news of his controversial decision, which spared the convicted former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff any potential jail time. Arpaio had been a vocal Trump backer during the campaign. The pardon, a sopping red meat gift to Trump’s base, arrived before Arpaio’s scheduled sentencing, setting off anger among immigrant advocates and legal professionals.
Republican Sen. John McCain, the state’s best known elected official, crossed party lines to criticize Trump.
“Mr. Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for continuing to illegally profile Latinos living in Arizona based on their perceived immigration status in violation of a judge’s orders,” McCain said. “The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions.”
11.”Fire or suspend!”
A frustrating few months on the legislative front amped up Trump’s culture warrior tendencies. In late September and October, he repeatedly railed against NFL players who chose to kneel during the pregame National Anthem in protest against racism and police brutality. Trump’s prescription? Team owners, he said during a speech in Alabama, should bench or fire the demonstrators. There followed a long campaign, mostly on Twitter, agitating for action against the players, or a fan boycott in its absence.
12. “… want everything to be done for them …”
As the situation in Puerto Rico deteriorated after Hurricane Maria swept through in late September, Trump turned on island officials who questioned the federal government’s response. He was particularly pointed with Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan. As she pleaded for more aid amid the devastation, Trump accused her of trying to score political points – and suggested that the Puerto Rican people were in part to blame for the stalled rescue and recovery operations.
“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he began. “Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They…want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort. 10,000 Federal workers now on Island doing a fantastic job.”
13. “… what I said to the wife of a soldier …”
Trump in October came under scrutiny for some clumsy word choices in his call to the widow of an American soldier killed in Niger. The particulars were relayed to the press by Democratic Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson. Trump duly assailed the congresswoman, a family friend who’d listened in on the conversation, on Twitter, calling her a liar and claiming to have evidence contradicting her account.
But there was no “proof.” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, responding to a question from CNN’s Sara Murray, told reporters at a briefing that “there were several people in the room from the administration that were on the call, including the chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly.” But, once again, no audio record was made available.
14. “… they just gave me a standing O!”
The morning after Sen. Jeff Flake lambasted him on the Senate floor (while simultaneously retreating from an uphill fight to keep his seat), Trump smacked back at his Republican frenemy. The President attempted to undermine Flake by noting the support, in typically hyperbolic terms, he enjoyed from other GOP senators.
Trump exchanged barbs with fellow Republicans throughout the year, but his fight with Flake was the most instructive. Where he’s sought to make nice with others, Trump sensed a weak opponent in the now lame duck Arizona lawmaker – who would later vote in favor of the President’s tax package – and promptly rolled him.
15. “Video: Muslim migrant…”
RT @JaydaBF: VIDEO: Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches!
You can’t see the now infamous retweets because their author, Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right and ultra-nationalist political group, has been suspended from Twitter. In one of three inflammatory videos, a young boy on crutches is seen being assaulted by another youth, described as a “Muslim migrant.”
The Dutch attorney general’s office said the incident seen on tape occurred in May – and that the suspect was born and raised in the Netherlands. The White House said it didn’t know how Trump found the videos.
16. “Big stuff. Deep State.”
Mueller’s job appears safe for now, but that doesn’t mean Trump isn’t pushing back more broadly against the probe. In messages like this one, breathless and near inscrutable, we see him parrot a Fox News report, or some part of it, in an effort to discredit investigators.
17. “Don’t let the Fake News convince you otherwise …”
A fitting coda. With Republicans passing their tax cuts right before leaving town for the year, Trump declared victory – then duly took one more jab at the press and polls showing his dismal approval ratings.