Donald Trump broke a long (for him) Twitter drought on Friday morning, returning from more than a day of tweet-silence to call former FBI Director James Comey a “leaker” — and to quite possibly accuse him of perjury.
Trump also echoed his lawyer — and conservative media — in claiming “complete vindication” from Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning.
Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2017
It’s not entirely clear from the phrasing, but it appears Trump is accusing Comey of making false statements and lies at the hearing. If so, that would be an accusation of perjury, because Comey testified under oath.
Trump, a man not known for his restraint or his thoughtfulness on social media, nevertheless made it through the entire hearing Thursday without uttering a single word on Twitter. He did not tweet again until Friday morning. According to the Washington Post’s Philip Bump, Trump appears to have just narrowly missed his personal record for time between tweets since he declared his presidential candidacy.
According to Politico, that discipline had come as a relief to Trump’s aides, who worried that “the president would feel compelled to respond directly to Comey’s claims.” But on Thursday morning, even as Comey accused the White House of spreading “lies, plain and simple,” there was nary a peep from the president.
The uncharacteristic discipline Thursday disappointed some observers:
This is the first time in history people have actually wanted Donald Trump to tweet.— Luke O'Neil (@lukeoneil47) June 8, 2017
I've never wanted Trump to tweet so badly in my entire life. Pick your phone up! Do it!! DO IT!!!!— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) June 8, 2017
White House sources told Politico that the president made the decision to stay off Twitter Wednesday night, but he watched the hearing Thursday. Although Trump was not live-tweeting, his son Donald Trump Jr. filled in, defending his father repeatedly in response to Comey’s testimony.
WH sources tell me they're relieved Trump hasn't live tweeted. That was a fear/expectation earlier in week. Don Jr. channeled his father,— Robert Costa (@costareports) June 8, 2017
Trump complained earlier this week that the press has tried to suppress his tweets. “They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out,” he said Tuesday morning on Twitter.
The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
In truth, the press has lapped up all of Trump’s tweets, particularly his early morning diatribes, which have often injected a zany element into the headlines. At the hearing Thursday morning, Comey explained that it was one of Trump’s haphazard tweets that convinced him to share his memos with the press.
As Vox wrote on Tuesday, Trump’s tweets are a huge problem for his administration, from both a legal and a public relations standpoint.
If Trump wants to communicate directly with Americans, then he has to accept the consequences of his words. It’s telling that he prefers to broadcast unfocused, typo-ridden thoughts on Twitter — a reactive medium that demands little in the way of contemplation.
Perhaps this explains why, according to a Monmouth University poll last week, 61 percent of Americans believe Trump does more to hurt himself whenever he speaks on his own behalf. Americans can hear what the president is saying — they just don’t seem that impressed.