Still suffering from an infection of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, President Donald Trump unleashed an extended and aggressive tirade on Twitter following a period of relative radio silence while he was hospitalized.
He seemed to have returned from Walter Reed Medical Center with a vengeance. His furious tweeting, often in all caps, targeted his favorite subjects, including the Russia investigation, the media, Hillary Clinton, and former Vice President Joe Biden.
He called for "arrests" out of the Justice Department's review of the handling of the Russia investigation, based on dubious reporting of selectively declassified documents from his own administration that showed no evidence of any clear crimes:
Attorney General Bill Barr, who has previously denigrated the administration's predecessors and whipped up hopes that the investigation would punish the president's enemies, appears to be disappointing Trump. Barr has previously said that the president's tweeting about ongoing investigations make it "impossible" for him to do his job, but that hasn't deterred Trump.
Trump also called on California — a state he'll certainly lose — to vote for him, and retweeted a vile smear comparing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to Nazis.
The day before, Trump tweeted that he was ending negotiations with Democrats on a new round of pandemic relief funds, criticizing the high dollar figures House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked for. But then, he baffled observers by echoing Fed Chair Jerome Powell's remarks that Congress should pass more stimulus without worrying about "overdoing it." That alone made people question his mental stability. He then abruptly shifted to new demands for a narrow stimulus bill, seemingly completely reneging on his declaration that negotiations were over.
He also tweeted excessively about declassifying documents in the Russia investigation. However, it was unclear how serious these tweets were; Trump has previously made similar claims on Twitter, only for the Justice Department to reject the idea that his tweets constituted official declassification orders. He ended up reversing himself, saying he had already made the declassifications, though he also continued to tout reports that claimed his declassification was a new event.
One of the president's tweets seized on random user's conspiratorial tweet for more than two and a half years ago, demanding that something must be done about:
Who should do something about it? It's not clear.
It also should be noted that claiming Biden shouldn't be allowed to run, based on completely bogus and frequently debunked allegations, is not exactly a sign of confidence in the president's 2020 campaign.
Politico observed of the tirade:
The day-long run of tweets and retweets marked the most frantic stretch of Trump's public activity since he left the presidential suite at Walter Reed Medical Center and returned to treatment at the White House. They also underscored the degree to which Trump remains fixated on his grievances over the Russia probe, and often on obscure aspects of that investigation that are unintelligible to all but its most careful followers.
There were several possible explanations for Trump's erratic behavior. Many seized on the fact that the president has been prescribed Dexamethasone for his COVID-19 infection, a steroid that can reportedly effect mood and cause agitation and aggression. Some have argued that, given the seriousness of the president's infection and the medications he's on, the 25th Amendment should be invoked, and Vice President Mike Pence should act as president until Trump has recovered.
It's certainly possible that the drugs are affecting the president's behavior. But there are other possible explanations as well.
Trump may just be making up for lost time when he wasn't tweeting much in the hospital. He may be trying to distract from the fact that he's been infected as the result of a pandemic he can't control. He may be terrified about the polls that increasing show Biden with a formidable lead over him in the election. And he could have fewer tasks and people to keep him busy, given that he's likely in some kind of isolation at the White House. (He reportedly went to the Oval Office on Monday, but it's not clear if he actually had any work to do.) He may just be bored.
But the cause of his extreme behavior isn't all that important, nor is the fact that we've seen the president act in disturbing ways before. This level of frenzy and disorder should not be acceptable in a president for any reason or amount of time.