Op-ed: Tweet away, Mr. President

  • By Bob Franken
  • Wednesday, June 21, 2017 12:23pm
  • Opinion

This will astonish regular readers, but I think President Donald Trump should continue what he’s doing: Contrary to the urging of all his handlers who have to clean up the messes he leaves behind, he really should stay up late at night and tweet his brains out. Let’s face it, for us journalists, aka “fake news artists,” his Twitter rants are the real thing.

They are a Donald Trump uninhibited by timid advisers who simply want to save him from himself. Instead, for us, they are the gifts that keep on giving. They are the definitive word on his thinking, or lack thereof. His on-again, off-again press spokesman Sean Spicer has given them an official imprimatur, acknowledging that Trump’s tweets “are considered official statements by the president of the United States.”

These “official statements” are just part of a pattern of behavior unrestrained by anything beyond the moment. He is obsessed by the Russia probe — understandably so, since it threatens his presidency. When reluctantly assured by then-FBI Director Jim Comey that he was not personally under investigation, he pressured Comey to make that public. When Comey failed to do so, Trump fired him. He also reportedly asked for National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats to intercede. So several news organizations are reporting the apparently non-fake story that now Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice by Robert Mueller, the independent special counsel appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Rosenstein is the Justice Department point person on the Russia investigation, after his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, recused himself because of his involvement with Russians. Yes, this is one tangled web. I mentioned that it was obviously a true story because Trump seemed to confirm it in — you guessed it — one of his Twitter dumps: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.”

That apparently is a reference to Rosenstein, who wrote a memo critical of Comey that the Trumpsters first used to explain Comey’s firing. That is before their leader himself pulled the rug out from under them when he told NBC’s Lester Holt that it was because of “this Russia thing.” Rosenstein decided to appoint Mueller, a former FBI director himself, who is known for being a highly effective tough-guy investigator with a sterling reputation.

So of course Trump is now raging about Mueller and Rosenstein and just about anybody else who doesn’t bend to his will. That’s his pattern. His tantrums, largely on Twitter, over various courts ruling his Muslim travel ban unconstitutional are now included in the official record as the cases advance to the Supreme Court. No matter how many times his lawyers warn him that he’s undermining their arguments, he keeps digging the undermine deeper with even more impetuous cyberdiatribes.

It’s all part of the thoughtless bluster that served him well as self-promotion, and got him past one business failure after another in private life. It even propelled him during the campaign against a weak opponent into the planet’s highest office, except maybe for Vladimir Putin’s. (Yes, that’s a gratuitous cheap shot.)

Donald Trump has discovered that the presidency, even though it is at the pinnacle, is not all-powerful. The ability to bully is not absolute. His harangues are met with horror by those who toil for him, at least until he turns on them. The hectoring is met by laughter from his opponents, to the point that House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi counsels fellow party members not to be impatient. Let him “self-impeach,” she says.

There are even trial balloons from Trump’s associates that he would fire Mueller, which probably would make Pelosi’s prophecy a reality. In the meantime, we can count on the presidential tweets to keep flying. Thankfully.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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