It’s hard to say that President Donald Trump’s Twitter habits are getting stranger. After all, this is a President who has, from the start of his presidential campaign, used the social media site as among other things, a communications device, a Festivus pole and a psychologist’s couch. He’s attacked his own party leaders and suggested it might be time for them to quit. He’s attacked a cable news anchor for allegedly receiving a facelift. He’s threatened nuclear war with North Korea.
How could you possibly top – or, depending on your view of Trump – bottom that?
The answer is you can’t. But there does appear to be a change in both Trump’s Twitter habits and the content of his actual tweets in recent weeks – a trend that had become even more noticeable in the last few days. Trump is not only tweeting more, but he is doing so at less and less predictable hours. His actual tweets read like a stream of consciousness, verbal vomit – always (or almost always) focused on the ongoing special counsel investigation being led by Robert Mueller. Twitter has transformed into Trump’s very public venting operation – a forum where he can unleash his anger, bitterness and resentment and watch while his loyal supporters tell him that he’s right. Always.
“Since the [Michael] Cohen raid a few months ago, the president’s personal Twitter feed is delivering little actual information or even White House messaging and has become a rapid response operation against Mueller, interspersed with false claims about his own policies,” tweeted The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman on Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday, let’s first catalog the President’s tweets since Sunday morning.
Trump has sent 26 total tweets – 22 original tweets and 4 retweets of past Trump tweets.
- 18 of those came Sunday, eight were from Monday (as of press time).
- The first tweet on Sunday came at 7:52 a.m. ET The last one came at 9:03 p.m. ET.
- The first tweet on Monday came at 8:46 a.m. ET.
- 8 tweets were centered on the Mueller investigation and/or the inspector general’s report on how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email probe.
- 6 tweets attacked Democrats for creating the family separation issues along the southern border.
- 5 tweets have focused primarily on how Trump isn’t getting the credit he believes he deserves for his handling of North Korea.
- The remaining tweets were a mishmash of those attacking the “fake news” media, touting how great his supporters are and wishing everyone a happy Father’s Day.
The sheer volume of the tweets is the first thing that stands out to me. Yes, Trump is a frequent tweeter – and always has been. But 18 tweets on a single day!? And a Sunday?! And Father’s Day, to boot!!!!
What Trump appeared to do on Sunday is something along these lines: Wake up, tweet, play golf, go back to White House, tweet.
And then today, even as his party stages an open rebellion against his policies on the border, Trump continues to tweet and tweet and tweet.
Context matters here. As Haberman notes, Trump’s turning to Twitter as almost purely a grievance machine – particularly as it relates to the Mueller probe – has come since the raiding of Cohen’s home, hotel and office by the FBI in early April. Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, is regarded as one of the people closest to the businessman-turned-politician. No one this side of Trump knows exactly what Cohen knows but you can assume there is some level of concern and consternation caused by rumors that Cohen will; soon be charged and could well become a cooperating witness in the Mueller probe.
It’s also worth considering that Trump is without many of the people he trusts most in the White House. Hope Hicks is gone. So is Rob Porter. And Johnny McEntee. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, remain on the White House staff but have problems of their own, not to mention three young kids.
The point is that Trump, never one to have a wide circle of trusted advisers, has watched his so-called “inner circle” shrink and shrink and shrink over the last few months. And that shrinkage has been accompanied by an increasingly fraught political environment caused largely by the ongoing uncertainty of what Mueller will find and when he will announce it.
Backed into a corner that is at least somewhat of his own making, Trump has turned to Twitter more and more frequently of late. And his tweets have become even more revealing.
What we have right now is a President focused/bordering-on-obsessed with the Mueller investigation, what it has meant and might mean for his presidency. A President who feels like a victim of an unfair media, which won’t give him the proper credit he deserves. A President who, under siege in any number of ways, is increasingly bunkering in – and giving voice to conspiracy theories to justify his behavior.
Again, it is impossible to say Trump is doing something on Twitter that he’s never done before, because he’s crossed every line and upended every expectation on the social media platform already.
But what is worth noting is that the way Trump is using Twitter – particularly the frequency and time of tweets – has changed. That, coupled with his increasingly stream of consciousness riffs on whatever grievance he is nursing in that moment, make his Twitter feed even more raw, more personal and, yes, stranger that at any time since he has been President.