His lawyers have told him to stop. His staff has told him to stop.
But President Donald Trump appears to be “Brokeback Mountain”-style in love with Twitter.
In the aftermath of this weekend’s terrorist attacks in London, Trump took to Twitter to promote his attempt to block travel into the U.S. by citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries. The American Civil Liberties Union and other lawyers have sued over the initiative and it is being blocked by judges, while official White House spokespersons have argued against calling the initiative a “travel ban.”
Unfortunately for those official White House spokespersons and the lawyers defending the policy in court, Trump repeatedly used the phrase “Travel Ban” — capitalized as such — in his tweets.
The ACLU almost immediately responded, “Glad we both agree the ban is a ban.”
Glad we both agree the ban is a ban. https://t.co/p1qXkffyIL
— ACLU National (@ACLU) June 4, 2017
In the intervening days, Trump doubled down with even more tweets, repeatedly using the phrase “Travel Ban,” characterizing the amended initiatives his lawyers are pushing as a “watered down Travel Ban,” and even declaring, “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” (Caps lock his.)
— ACLU National (@ACLU) June 5, 2017
In response to Twitter users’ outcry, the ACLU tweeted Monday that they may use Trump’s own tweets against him in front of the Supreme Court.
Yes, we may incorporate @realDonaldTrump’s tweets about the ban into our Supreme Court argument.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) June 5, 2017
A lawyer fighting the ban in a separate case brought in Hawaii tweeted thanks to Trump for “acting as our co-counsel.”
Its kinda odd to have the defendant in HawaiivTrump acting as our co-counsel.We don’t need the help but will take it! pic.twitter.com/8ehqkLkOY2
— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) June 5, 2017
In an article following Trump’s infamous errant “covfefe” tweet last week, the New York Times reported that “every lawyer consulted by White House aides in recent days has made the same point about the president’s tweets: he can power through the investigations, but he is his own worst enemy if he continues to vent online.”
Judges in the travel ban cases have already cited Trump’s campaign statements as evidence of his motives, the Times noted, and some lawyers believe his tweets following his firing of former FBI director James Comey could be construed as witness tampering, particularly when Trump tweeted that Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations.” (Comey is set to testify in front of Congress on Thursday.)
The lawyers the Times spoke with said it was unclear if the same could happen in the Russia-related criminal proceedings Trump is facing, “but they asked why he would take the chance.” According to the Times, Trump does not view his White House counsel “as a peer,” and respects his personal lawyer more “for building a successful business.” The president’s aides are hoping his personal lawyer can succeed where the White House counsel has failed, and convince Trump to curb his tweeting.
An analysis by Lawfare concluded that there is legal precedent to limit what judges look at in a case, which would render Trump’s tweets irrelevant. But the tweets could bolster his opposing counsels’ arguments in applications for stays and petitions for certiorari, enabling his opponents to at least temporarily block or hamstring the president’s efforts.
His spokesman, Sean Spicer, is refusing to comment on the various Russia-related investigations plaguing Trump and his administration, directing the press to send inquiries to Trump’s personal lawyer.
But as the President continues to tweet, a new Twitter “bot” has been set up, which formats his tweets as official White House statements.
A statement by the President: pic.twitter.com/Oc2T8lXC6J
— Real Press Sec. (@RealPressSecBot) June 5, 2017