US spies live in dread of the president’s next ‘unpredictable and rash’ Twitter outburst
As White House staff scramble to formulate specific policy positions from Donald Trump’s erratic early morning tweetstorms, U.S. spies and intelligence officials are ‘frantically subscribing’ to the president’s Twitter account so they can manage the national security fallout from his unpredictable outbursts, the Daily Beast reports.
One senior official told the Daily Beast they “don’t always know what’s coming” from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, adding, “We are making sure we are following the president’s tweets because it’s often the first place we hear things.”
The fear continues less than a week after the president, in an explosive Saturday morning tweet, accused his predecessor, former president Barack Obama, of wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential election. Without evidence, Trump charged Obama with “Nixonian/Watergate”-style surveillance, and said the unsubstantiated actions were on par with “McCarthyism.”
Trump’s assertion rocked Washington. As Trump demanded a Congressional investigation into the present’s wiretap claim, Republican lawmakers refused to support their party leader, admitting they’ve seen no evidence to support the theory that Obama tapped Trump Tower. FBI Director James Comey was reportedly “incredulous” over the president’s tweet, even asking the Department of Justice to knock down the charge.
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, director of the Brookings Intelligence Project, told the Daily Beast intelligence officials and “national security professionals value orderly process for decision making.”
“They abhor unpredictable and rash impulses. Twitter temper tantrums undermine process and create wasteful distractions at best and unnecessary wars at worst,” he added.
But former Trump transition adviser James Carafano attempted to mitigate the impact the president’s tweets have on policy.
“Increasingly, when I talk to people, they just stopped listening to the noise and tuned that stuff out,” Carafano said. “Its strategic impact is starting to taper off.”
Trump supporters—and some journalists—have insisted Trump should be taken “seriously but not literally.” That narrative continued Tuesday, when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, discussing Trump’s wiretap tweets, complained, “I think a lot of the things that he says, [the press] take literally.”
“We should [not] attack the president for tweeting,” he added.
That same theory was shared with Carafano, who told the Daily Beast, “trying to literally translate [Trump’s tweets] into policy is stupid.”