Donald Trump’s closest friends and allies have begun to publicly warn the US president that his Twitter tirades are fueling mayhem in the White House and risk jeopardising his presidency.
“The tweeting makes everybody crazy,” said Trump’s close friend Tom Barrack, chairman of Colony Northstar, at a Bloomberg conference in New York Tuesday. “There’s just no gain in doing it.”
The campaign by Trump’s closest supporters amounts to a remarkable appeal to a sitting commander-in-chief, a sort of public intervention with the aim of convincing Trump to give up behaviour that they believe is doing lasting damage to his presidency.
The tweets do more than simply distract from the administration’s attempts to highlight Trump’s policies. Across the administration, a sense of mayhem prevails as Trump’s staff find themselves unable to plan and are constantly playing defence because of uncertainty over what the president may next say on Twitter or elsewhere, with his positions constantly shifting, one former administration official said. One Washington consultant whose clients work closely with the administration said the tweets feed into a sense that the White House is losing its way.
Barrack’s criticism followed a Trump tweet storm over the weekend, sparked by the London terrorist attack that killed seven people. Trump criticised the city’s mayor and the US department of justice for its legal defence of his travel ban. The tweets shocked the British and caused days of distraction, overshadowing the White House’s public roll-out of a plan to overhaul the US air-traffic control system.
Trump’s allies were so alarmed that several have publicly called for him to stop.
The first public plea came from an unexpected quarter: George Conway, a longtime Trump friend and husband of White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway.
“The pt cannot be stressed enough that tweets on legal matters seriously undermine Admin agenda and POTUS–and those who support him, as I do, need to reinforce that pt and not be shy about it,” Conway wrote on Twitter Monday morning.
Conway was previously an unnoticed and noncontroversial presence on Twitter, causing news organisations to scramble to verify that he controlled the account. (A spokesman confirmed that he does.) His criticism was amplified on Tuesday by Republican members of Congress, including senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, senate foreign relations chairman Bob Corker and senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
“Every day that we’re talking about tweets that are off message is a bad day,” Graham told reporters.
Privately, Trump’s allies had already dialled up pleas to Trump to lay off Twitter and focus on efforts to set the agenda in Washington. That effort has had little effect, said one Trump supporter and GOP consultant. That is perhaps because at least one other close Trump confidante, Republican operative Roger Stone, has encouraged Trump to remain unleashed on Twitter, two people close to Trump said.
“The president has always said that he wanted to buy a newspaper, and Twitter has filled that void — in fact, he notes it’s a newspaper without the losses,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aide who was fired but remains a supporter. “There’s a method to the madness.”
Trump friend Chris Ruddy, the president and CEO of NewsMax.com, said he thinks Trump should implement an internal White House review process for his tweets before hitting send. “There’s nothing wrong with the tweeting,” he said, but a backstop would be smart.
Sense of chaos
Barrack agreed there is a sense of chaos in the White House and said it was unlikely to abate soon. But he cautioned that the first year of any administration is often marked by disarray and said Americans should give Trump more time to find his way.
It is early in Trump’s term to descend into panic over his agenda, but his allies say the clock is fast expiring for his loftiest domestic goals, including repeal of Obamacare and a tax overhaul. In a week that top officials hoped he could focus on his infrastructure plan, Trump instead made the narrative his Twitter feud with the London mayor and an apparent shift in policy toward Qatar, also first aired on the social media site.
The White House may lose control of the message again on Thursday when fired FBI director James Comey testifies about his investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.
Administration officials felt they had ended last week on a high note after Trump’s decision to exit the Paris climate accord. Many of his aides regarded his recently concluded first oversees trip — during which his personal @realDonaldTrump missives were largely boring — as a success. They looked forward to a pivot to his domestic agenda, with a focus on infrastructure and improving veterans’ health care.
Trump had other ideas. As if demonstrating his disdain for his friends’ advice, Trump tweeted again Monday evening — after Conway’s plea — about his travel ban.
“That’s right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won’t help us protect our people!”
And on Tuesday morning, he had a message for the hectoring media.
“The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media,” he said. “They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.” — Reported by by Shannon Pettypiece, (c) 2017 Bloomberg LP