Donald Trump mounted an overnight Twitter blitz demanding to jail his political enemies and call out allies he says are failing to arrest his rivals swiftly enough.
Trump twice amplified supporters’ criticisms of Attorney General William Barr, including one featuring a meme calling on him to “arrest somebody!” He wondered aloud why his rivals, like President Barack Obama, Democratic nominee Joe Biden and former Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton hadn’t been imprisoned for launching a “coup” against his administration.
“Where are all of the arrests?” Trump said, after several dozen tweets on the subject over the past 24 hours. “Can you imagine if the roles were reversed? Long term sentences would have started two years ago. Shameful!”
By early afternoon, Trump was letting loose his frustrations in an all-caps missive that seemed aimed at nobody in particular.
“DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS, THE BIGGEST OF ALL POLITICAL SCANDALS (IN HISTORY)!!! BIDEN, OBAMA AND CROOKED HILLARY LED THIS TREASONOUS PLOT!!! BIDEN SHOULDN’T BE ALLOWED TO RUN – GOT CAUGHT!!!” Trump tweeted.
The day-long run of tweets and retweets marked the most frantic stretch of Trump’s public activity since he left the presidential suite at Walter Reed Medical Center and returned to treatment at the White House. They also underscored the degree to which Trump remains fixated on his grievances over the Russia probe, and often on obscure aspects of that investigation that are unintelligible to all but its most careful followers.
Since late Tuesday, Trump has vowed to declassify all documents he claims will show improper activity by Obama and his intelligence advisers — before quickly reversing himself and suggesting he had already done so “long ago” — and repeatedly cited Russian intelligence services’ claims that Clinton “stirred up” the Trump-Russia collusion scandal that has dogged his presidency.
The Trump administration has never held a firm position on whether the president’s tweets constitute direct orders; various tell-all books have described how top officials learned which of his instructions — lawful or otherwise — to ignore and which to accommodate. Courts have at times treated Trump’s tweets at official statements. But on other occasions they’ve been brushed off as political banter that lacks the force of law.
Trump’s Twitter feed tends to be a realtime barometer of his offline moods and whims, however — and themes he hits on repeatedly over 280 characters tend to surface in conversations he holds in private.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment about whether Trump had ever directly asked Barr to order the arrest of his rivals or if his tweet suggesting as much had veered into territory that Barr once said made his job “impossible.”
In past interviews, Barr has signaled that he has no intention of prosecuting senior Obama administration officials, though he has cast doubt on the motives behind the Russia probe and launched an investigation into its origins.
The review Barr ordered has disappointed Trump in recent weeks as the U.S. attorney tapped to lead it, John Durham, has signaled he might not pursue the kinds of high-profile prosecutions the president and his allies are demanding. Durham’s deputy in the review, veteran Justice Department prosecutor Nora Dennehy, recently quit the faltering effort and returned to the private sector.
“NOW THAT THE RADICAL LEFT DEMOCRATS GOT COUGHT [sic] COLD IN THE (NON) FRIENDLY TRANSFER OF GOVERNMENT, IN FACT, THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN AND WENT FOR A COUP, WE ARE ENTITLED TO ASK THE VOTERS FOR FOUR MORE YEARS,” Trump declared late Wednesday morning. “PLEASE REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU VOTE!”
Trump’s tweet barrage was particularly jarring when set against the political backdrop. Biden has widened his lead over Trump in recent polls, as the president’s support has eroded among women, seniors and other voting blocs that helps him scratch out a victory in 2016. Trump flummoxed his allies Tuesday by summarily shutting down — also via Twitter — negotiations over a coronavirus stimulus bill, only to backtrack hours later by calling on Congress to pass more targeted measures.
But Trump has made clear that he remains focused on punishing perceived enemies regardless of the political cost. While recovering at Walter Reed Monday morning, his chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News that Trump had kept busy that morning in part by directing the declassification of documents related to the Russia probe — a set of files he claimed were conclusive proof that Clinton had concocted the notion that his campaign team had ties to Russia even though the Senate Intelligence Committee and the special counsel’s team had rejected the allegations as unverified.
In releasing them, Trump’s own hand-picked intel chief, John Ratcliffe, acknowledged the documents, sourced to Russian intelligence, might have been “exaggerated” or even “fabricated” to deflect from their culpability in the election interference effort.