Donald Trump has a massive Twitter following, and he’s used that platform as a vehicle to announce major policy decisions, often out of the blue. But according to new reporting, the more functioning parts of Trump’s administration are able to thwart him by basically just ignoring when he tries to make policy by posting.
As the Atlantic reported today, writing about Trump’s threat to cut aid to Central American countries because of asylum seekers:
“We have heard nothing so far,” a senior Democratic official on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which must sign off on any funds that State wants to reallocate, told me. “What money are we talking about? For what purposes? What’s the timeline for this? It’s been weeks now, and we’ve asked multiple times, and we know nothing.” (The State Department did not respond to my request for comment.)
This same thing appears to have happened back in January, when Trump threatened to end FEMA funding for California wildfire victims, largely because the state pushed back on his inane “forest management” excuses. By February, it was pretty clear none of that was actually happening, with FEMA saying pretty much the same thing as the Senate Appropriations aide above: nope, never heard about that.
But the Atlantic notes that while Trump’s policy tweets—announcing cuts to funding and other fevered ramblings—often don’t go anywhere, his bully pulpit still has the power to put pressure on officials or give them cover to enact even more heinous shit, like the ban on transgender people serving in the military. Per the magazine:
According to two former White House officials, who asked for anonymity to share private conversations, Trump tweeted news of the ban from the residence shortly after a phone call with a handful of senior aides, in which the president had broached the topic, but agreed to wait and discuss it with the aides and other Defense Department officials in the Oval Office that afternoon. “We had literally just spoken to him about holding off on a decision and having a conversation later that day, maybe even bringing in Mattis and McMaster for it,” one of the sources recalled. “But then he tweeted it, and there wasn’t really any easy or effective way to walk it back.” (White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders would not comment for this story on the record.)
On April 12, nearly two years after Trump’s order-by-tweet, and after prevailing in four court battles, the Pentagon officially implemented a policy that bars anyone diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who has undergone a sex change from enlisting in the armed forces. The president, meanwhile, has not tweeted about the topic at all since that summer morning in the residence.
Essentially, the president is an uncontrollable idiot, and whether or not his vindictive whim of the day will actually become policy could be based on any number of factors, among them whether or not his aides can find a way to make it someone else’s problem. From the Atlantic (emphasis mine):
Beyond finding some way to make these pronouncements happen, or gently push back on them, government officials have a third, if rarer and riskier, approach: Ignore the president’s directives altogether. “If it was a tweet that could conceivably be about another agency, normally those things would just kind of be policy pronouncements that would steer toward—not a slow death, necessarily, but a general opinion of the president,” a former White House official told me. “We felt like we could kind of sit quietly on those.”
Great, wonderful, functioning government we’ve got here. Super glad the executive branch is run by a TV-addled sociopath with brain worms.