The attitude among many Republicans in Washington, D.C. is that while President Donald Trump can be a loose cannon, he’s their loose cannon. But managing a loose cannon who is prone to making unreasonable demands via Twitter can be challenging, and a report by The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott details the tendency among Trump associates to ignore some of those unreasonable demands in the hopes that he will forget about them.
“Since assuming office, Trump has issued many private demands to aides that have either been slow-walked or altogether ignored,” Plott observes. “But when the president dictates those spontaneous orders publicly, officials are suddenly accountable to a much broader audience — at least in theory — to make them a reality.”
Plott cites some examples. In July 2017, for instance, Trump tweeted that he was banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military. And a former White House official, who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity, told Plott that previously, Trump had brought up the subject but agreed to hold off on a decision until discussing it with officials in the U.S. Department of Defense such as former Defense Secretary James Mattis or former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster.
“We had literally just spoken to him about holding off on a decision and having a conversation later that day, maybe even bringing in Mattis and McMaster for it,” the former White House Official told Plott. “But then he tweeted it, and there wasn’t really any easy or effective way to walk it back.”
Plott also notes that on March 29, Trump announced that he would be cutting off all aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador—a move he wasn’t authorized to make unilaterally without consulting others. Because of Trump’s announcement, Plott explains, “stunned State Department officials hurried to put together a statement that evening.”
This has been a pattern throughout Trump’s presidency, according to Plott: the president jumps the gun, and those around him hope that the mess he is creating will go away — or at least be manageable.
Interviewed anonymously, a senior official for the Senate Appropriations Committee said of the Central America aid fiasco, “whether Trump even cares about this in six months, who knows. But we’re the ones that have to try and fix it.”