One of the bizarre hallmarks of Donald Trump’s first year as president has been the frequency with which he blindsides his own aides. White House staffers routinely discover dramatic changes to the Trump administration’s position based on tweets published by their erratic boss, which in turn makes their jobs far more difficult.
This morning’s Trump tweet, however, published in response to a Fox News segment, was especially bizarre:
“House votes on controversial FISA ACT today.” This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?
First, the dossier isn’t phony and hasn’t been discredited. Second, people close to him were reportedly caught up in regular ol’ FISA wiretaps, not the 702 policy that Congress is weighing. Third, there’s no evidence of any “abuse” involving surveillance of people in Trump’s orbit.
But even if we put all of that aside, what was especially amazing about this was Trump criticizing an intelligence tool that the Trump administration supports. Indeed, the White House issued a statement late yesterday encouraging Congress to extend the 702 policy. The statement came on the heels of Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo, hitting the Sunday shows over the weekend, talking up his support for the policy.
In other words, the president, eager to bolster a ridiculous conspiracy theory, undercut his own team, mindlessly criticizing a policy he’s supposed to support, based on a Fox News segment he apparently didn’t understand. Or as Steve Vladeck put it, “Just to be clear, [Trump] is objecting to Congress’s renewal of a piece of important national security legislation because of a completely invented scandal about how an unrelated provision of the same underlying statute (FISA) was allegedly (but not really) abused.”
Making matters slightly worse, a senior House Republican source told NBC News this morning that the president’s tweet “is an issue” ahead of today’s House vote.
If Trump hoped to silence questions about his fitness for office, he’s going in the wrong direction.
That said, someone apparently told the president that he’d just criticized the policy he supports, so Trump returned to Twitter with another message. “With that being said, I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land,” he wrote nearly two hours after the original tweet. “We need it! Get smart!”
I don’t imagine the president wants my advice, but perhaps he should avoid phrases such as, “Get smart.”