Trump Turns Twitter Fury on His Own Presidential Decisions
(Bloomberg) -- Add Donald Trump to the list of people frustrated with the decisions Donald Trump has made as president.
In a series of early morning tweets on Monday, the president complained that his administration had weakened his first attempt to ban travel from a handful of predominantly Muslim countries in favor of a revised order designed to avert legal challenges. He also complained that congressional Democrats "are taking forever to approve my people, including Ambassadors.”
If he wanted to, Trump could fix both problems with the stroke of a pen.
On Thursday, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to lift a lower court ruling that halted the revised travel restrictions. Trump tweeted Monday that the Justice Department “should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version” submitted to the Supreme Court. He added that his administration should seek a “much tougher version.”
But it was the president himself who signed an executive order replacing his original ban. The revised travel ban, set to take effect on March 16 before it was blocked by a court, dropped Iraq from the list of covered countries, removed a provision exempting religious minorities from the ban and made clear it doesn’t apply to legal permanent U.S. residents, also known as “green card” holders.
Trump could sign an executive order reinstating the original ban anytime he likes. Instead, he blamed the decision on the Justice Department, which is simply carrying out his order.
Almost as an aside, Trump amplified his public contradiction of his press secretary, Sean Spicer, who insisted on Jan. 31 that the executive order was “not a travel ban.”
"I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!" the president wrote.
Asked about it later in the day, principal deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, “The president isn’t concerned with what you call it.”
Trump’s anger about his ambassadors appeared to have been sparked by the senior U.S. envoy to the U.K., Lewis Lukens, who in his own Twitter posts on Monday commended the leadership of London Mayor Sadiq Khan in the aftermath of the London Bridge terror attack. Trump and his social media director, Dan Scavino, attacked Khan in tweets on Sunday and Monday.
Sanders said “picking a fight with the mayor of London” was not the president’s intent in making the criticism, and that instead Trump was simply trying to argue that “we have to be more committed to national security.”
Trump said before his inauguration he intended to name New York Jets owner Woody Johnson as U.S. ambassador to the U.K. But the president has yet to actually submit the nomination to the Senate.
In fact, Trump’s administration has moved slowly to staff positions across the government.
Of the 559 positions in the federal government that require Senate confirmation, just 39 people have been confirmed, and Trump hasn’t nominated anyone to fill 442 of them, according to a list compiled by The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service. Another 63 have been nominated and 15 are awaiting paperwork to be processed for a formal nomination.
Yet Trump apparently blames Democrats for the delay. “They are nothing but OBSTRUCTIONISTS!” Trump said on Twitter, adding that he wanted "approvals."
A surrogate, his former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, echoed the complaint.
“It has to move at a quicker pace,” he said on “Fox & Friends” on Monday. “The Democratic Party has just become a permanent obstruction campaign.”
The Republican Party, which the president leads, controls the Senate. Democrats are no longer able to filibuster presidential nominations, though they can slow action in other ways.
“If the President is looking for someone to blame on the slow pace of confirmations, he needs only to look in the mirror,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said in a statement. “President Trump ought to roll up his sleeves and get to work rather than pointing false fingers of blame.”
To be sure, the White House’s slow work filling positions isn’t the only thing delaying his nominees.
The Trump administration has sent names for six additional ambassador jobs to the State Department for signoff, and has become increasingly impatient with the process. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also intervened in some cases; while the White House wanted Ric Grenell, a former spokesman for the U.S. mission to the UN, to be ambassador to NATO, Tillerson asked to instead name former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, according to an administration official familiar with the process.
By the Numbers
Since Trump took office on Jan. 20, he’s submitted 94 names to the Senate, with 35 being confirmed in an average of 41 days. By comparison, Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama at this point had 130 administration members confirmed and another 89 awaiting confirmation in a process that took on average 32 days.
Schumer, in his statement, said the delays are because many nominees had “conflicts of interest and incomplete ethics agreements when they were named.”
Trump’s aides frequently decline to comment on his tweets, saying that the missives speak for themselves. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway denounced “this obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little what he does as president” on NBC’s “Today” show on Monday.
Yet they are presidential statements and are taken seriously outside the administration. George Conway, Kellyanne Conway’s husband, criticized Trump’s tweets about the travel ban on Monday in a series of his own tweets.
“Tweets on legal matters seriously undermine Admin agenda and POTUS -- and those who support him, as I do, need to reinforce that pt and not be be shy about it,” he said.
A spokesman for Conway verified that he controls the account.