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Shock and Awe: Trump Used Twitter Likes and Retweets to Maintain His Dangerous Decision to Withdraw From Syria

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It was the week before Christmas, 2018. Out the the blue, President Donald Trump posted a series of tweets that he was pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria, immediately.

“We have won against ISIS. We have beaten them and we have beaten them badly,” Trump said. “We have taken back the land and now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”

“Our boys, our young women, our men, they’re all coming back,” Trump added later. “And they’re coming back now. We won. And that’s the way we want it. And that’s the way they want it.”

The news shocked the world. Experts called it a threat to national security.

That decision to pull out of Syria despite the threat of ISIS, a decision Trump refused to scale back until weeks later, was the final straw that led Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to resign in protest.

Now, perhaps even more shocking, is that the Commander-in-Chief used the number of “likes” and “retweets” his announcement was getting to try to convince stunned lawmakers who went to visit him in the Oval Office that his decision was correct.

Trump responded to the GOP lawmakers “by calling in the man who oversees his Twitter account,” Politico reports Thursday.

“Get Dan Scavino in here,” Trump called out in the middle of the meeting earlier this year. In walked a man in his early 40s with close-cropped brown hair.

“Tell them how popular my policy is,” Trump instructed Scavino, who, according to two people with knowledge of the exchange, proceeded to walk lawmakers through the positive reaction he had picked up on social media about Trump’s Syria decision.

The sudden pivot from geostrategy to retweets and likes surprised the lawmakers. It was a remarkable moment given that not long ago Scavino was managing Trump’s golf club. But for Scavino himself, it was just another day on the job.

Scavino, who is an attack shark on Twitter, “met Trump as a 16-year-old golf caddie and has spent much of his adult life by his side,” Politico adds.

Today, he sits just feet from the Oval Office and is present at most meetings, tapping away on his laptop in the background. He has joined Trump on trips to Saudi Arabia, Argentina and other far-flung destinations.

And officials say he talks to the president more than just about anybody else aside from Trump’s own family members, ping-ponging in and out of the Oval, sometimes more than a half-dozen times a day.

That one of the top and closest advisors to the supposed leader of the free world is a former golf cabby who went on to become general manager of the Trump National Golf Club Westchester and who now serves officially as Assistant to the President should surprise no one these days.

That he’s now being used to help the President shape foreign and military policy is beyond disturbing.

 

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COMMENTARY

Trump Mocked for Melting Down Over Gen. Colin Powell Endorsing Biden: ‘Cadet Bone Spurs Says What?’

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As might be expected, Donald Trump did not care for the comments made by former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell on CNN Sunday morning — including his endorsement of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, so the president lashed out on Twitter.

With Powell calling out the president for his treatment of Gold Star families and accusing the president of being a “liar,” Trump tweeted back, ”Colin Powell, a real stiff who was very responsible for getting us into the disastrous Middle East Wars, just announced he will be voting for another stiff, Sleepy Joe Biden. Didn’t Powell say that Iraq had ‘weapons of mass destruction?’ They didn’t, but off we went to WAR!

That received quite a bit of pushback from commenters with one bluntly stating, “You couldn’t shine Powell’s shoes.

You can see some other responses below:

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COMMENTARY

Trump Blames Obama for Iran Attack Then Takes Credit for Obama’s Accomplishments in Off-the-Rails Address to the Nation

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After three years there were likely few Americans hoping for some form of comfort from President Donald Trump’s address to the nation Wednesday in the wake of Tuesday night’s attack by Iran on air bases in Iraq that host thousands of U.S. Military troops. And President Trump, true to form, did not offer any.

The President descended as if from heaven (photo above) onto a stage filled with his military generals and advisors,

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. A clear attempt to show strength which the administration apparently felt the Commander-in-Chief could not summon if he appeared on camera alone. A sad statement.

“As long as I’m president of the United States Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” Trump, out of breath, declared as he walked up to the podium, flanked by his men in uniform. He then said: “Good morning.”

President Trump was expected to give Americans hope and comfort, and a clear indication that they are safe from attack.

Instead, he tried to show strength through military might – with no suggestion diplomacy might be a better route.

And he lied.

A lot.

“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration,” Trump claimed, blaming President Barack Obama in a speech watched around the world.

“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013,” Trump claimed. (It was actually 2015.)

He added, “they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.  Instead of saying ‘thank you’ to the United States, they chanted ‘death to America.’  In fact, they chanted ‘death to America’ the day the agreement was signed.”

Those billions belonged to Iran, and reportedly were less than the numbers Trump quoted. They were Iranian funds frozen which had been paid to the U.S. for arms never delivered. It is a frequent trump lie he tells at rallies over and over.

“Then, Iran went on a terror spree, funded by the money from the deal, and created hell in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq,” Trump claimed  in his address to the nation – and to the world. “The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.  The regime also greatly tightened the reins on their own country, even recently killing 1,500 people at the many protests that are taking place all throughout Iran.”

“The very defective JCPOA [the “Iran deal”] expires shortly anyway,” Trump said. That’s just false – another lie Trump often tells. Various parts expire between 2025 and 2030.

He claimed the JCPOA “gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout,” which again is false.

After falsely blaming Obama for Iran’s attack he went on to take credit for Obama paving to road to energy independence.

“Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.  These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities.  These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible.”

Again, false.

Here’s CNN’s Keith Boykin with graphs showing just how false Trump’s energy independence remarks were:

 

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COMMENTARY

Legal Expert Makes the Case for Trump to Resign — but Why Have So Few Others Demanded He Step Down?

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In a new op-ed for CNN, constitutional law professor F. Michael Higginbotham argued Friday that President Donald Trump should resign from office.

Higginbotham argued in the op-ed that President Richard Nixon’s resignation in the face of his own impeachment could be seen to represent, despite his grave abuses, “an act of patriotism.”

Nixon “protected not only his own historical legacy but also the country he had taken an oath to serve,” Higginbotham wrote. “Donald Trump should follow suit.”

He continued:

Trump should resign so the country can begin the process of healing. The divisions in the country today are even more corrosive than they were in 1974. That’s why it’s even more important that Trump emulate the best of Richard Nixon, who, in a rare moment of grace, understood he could only weaken the nation he led by focusing solely on himself, and chose the better path.

In President Trump’s acceptance speech of the Republican nomination at the Republican National Convention in 2016, he told the nation, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” While many mocked the hubris behind that claim, at this moment of national danger it is undoubtedly true: Trump alone can spare the nation the painful ordeal of an impeachment trial in the Senate.

While Trump is written about extensively every single day, such calls are relatively few. For all the tumult, investigation, and fierce partisanship Trump’s presidency has produced, it’s produced surprisingly sparse demands for his resignation. Even as Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives, and top newspapershave called for the president’s removal, the other option — the only way a president has actually been ousted from office via the impeachment process — remains woefully under-discussed. And though Democrats have occasionally called for the resignation of administration officials such as Attorney General Bill Barr and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, they seem hesitant to take the same step for the president himself. Instead, they often call on him to stop creating division and “lead” the country.

But “leading the country” is exactly what Trump has repeatedly proven himself incapable of doing.

What’s odd about the relative dearth of calls for is that Trump’s conduct clearly merits it. I’ve argued that calling for Trump’s resignation was the Democrats’ best move since they took the House of Representatives. And if, as many do, you think it’s appropriate for Trump to be impeached or removed, you should probably also think that it would be best if he just stepped down without all the conflict. In fact, it would be reasonable to argue that Trump should resign, but that an ultimately doomed impeachment process is too disruptive for the country. So in theory, there should be more support for Trump’s resignation than there is for his removal.

So why aren’t we deluged with calls for Trump’s resignation? CNN host Chris Cuomo’s response to the Higginbotham piece probably sums up the explanation:

Everyone assumes — almost certainly correctly — that Trump will never agree to resign the presidency. He hates admitting failure, he loves the adulation the office provides, and he fears the potential legal consequences of no longer being protected from prosecution. Nixon was a monster with a devoted base of support, but he realized eventually that it was time to throw in the towel. It’s nearly impossible to imagine a plausible scenario in which Trump does the same — and not just because the Republican Party seems even more devoted to the current president than it was to Nixon. He won’t even admit that his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was far from “perfect,” even though this admission could have helped him.

But the fact that Trump would almost never agree to resign doesn’t mean we should ignore the obvious fact that he should. Ignoring this option lets Trump off the hook for his own responsibilities, and it lowers the bar for the presidential standard of behavior.

Many Republicans have spoken out against impeachment by citing the fact that it will be divisive for the country and create more animosity or tension. By calling for resignation as a potential alternative to impeachment, Trump’s critics could point out that any resulting division from impeachment proceedings is at least as much the fault of the president. Democrats could argue that Trump’s behavior forced them to pursue impeachment, but if he were gracious and cared about the country, he could bring it to a peaceful end.

This reframes the discourse around Trump’s impeachment in a useful way, especially when pressed against Republicans who can’t bring themselves to defend the president’s conduct on the merits. And it exposes and dispenses with the implicit idea that Democrats are the only actors responsible for preserving constitutional government; that obligation falls just as heavily on the shoulders of Trump and the Republicans.

 

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