Through his tweets to his over 28 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account, the country gets a real-time window into his thinking. The president is publicizing, urging action, throwing out red meat to supporters, letting everyone in on his TV habits and often just venting, but the country gets to follow along.
It’s something we’ve never seen from the leader of our country, and while it can raise the curtain on his thoughts and feelings, it’s also when mistakes and unsubstantiated claims come out. His tweets have run the gamut, reflecting the true unpredictability of Trump and his presidency.
Just this week, he went on a tweet storm blaming a possible government shutdown on the Democrats. It was just hours after he tweeted about renegotiating NAFTA, as opposed to terminating the trade deal. Both are major actions by the president, but rather than coming in press conferences and statements, they are playing out on Twitter.
He gets to communicate with the country directly and at times it’s engagement through provocation. We’ve seen some of those tweets have more impact than others, even driving the news cycle for weeks.
His tweets aimed at the business habits of some companies seemed to bring results at times, but were also criticized for playing favorites or bullying specific companies.
Of course, the most talked about still seem to be those unsubstantiated wiretapping tweets from early March. There’s still no evidence the tweets have any credibility whatsoever, but the false allegations he raised with those early morning Saturday tweets remain in the headlines.
“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” Trump tweeted from Mar-a-Lago. He followed up with three more, igniting a firestorm that remains a major credibility issue for the president.
After the campaign, some thought his tweeting would be reined in.
He told CBS’s "60 Minutes" he was “going to be very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to be very restrained.”
In an interview right before the election with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, he called Twitter “a modern day form of communication” and said he “believe[s] in fighting back,” but “you have to be very careful with it.”
Toned down and careful did not happen, of course. But, when you look at the statistics, he isn’t tweeting as much as he once did. In January, the president tweeted 71 times, in February 145 times, but then he went down a bit. March was 129 times and so far we are at 125 times for April. Despite the dip, it looks like Trump will continue to use Twitter to speak directly to his supporters throughout his time in office, along with all the provocation, connection, and even mistakes -- not to mention typos -- that come with it.
Trump has been mocked for his typos on the quick tweets he churns out -- most notably, the three times he misspelled “hereby” last month and had to keep deleting the tweets. Despite the typo teasing, it’s the actual factual mistakes that often have impact.
In November, after retweeting incorrect homicide rate statistics, he admitted there’s no fact-checking in his seemingly stream of consciousness tweets. He asked now-former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly “Am I gonna check every statistic?” noting he has “millions and millions” of followers. There’s no evidence whatsoever that has changed in the last 99 days either.
The short answer to whether the president’s tweets should be correct is yes, but we know he often uses the eyebrow-raising, headline-grabbing tweets to change the conversation and distract from other news of the day, news that may be bad for the commander-in-chief.
It’s why some Democrats and others who disagree with the president plead for the press to ignore the president’s tweeting habits, but it’s impossible when he’s doing more than just changing the subject. He’s weighing in on policy, as well as raising the curtain on his daily thoughts and what he sees as his priorities.
The president’s antagonists, as well as plenty of supporters, would love to see him turn over his phone, but as long as he is able to tweet directly to the people who voted for him and get headlines at the same time, it’s hard to see him let go of this habit.