WASHINGTON (AP) — As a consequential week played out in world affairs and economic anxieties grew, exclamation points kept sprouting on President Donald Trump’s tweets. But they were about other things. Like bedbugs.
His tweets railed about the “incompetent Mayor of San Juan!” in the unnerving hours before the gathering hurricane, Dorian, brushed past Puerto Rico en route to the mainland. When the stock market took a dive, he poked fun at a little known Democratic presidential contender. Getting ready for dinner with world leaders, he took on critics who think he has a “Messiah complex.”
Trump’s Twitter feed is rarely normal. But over the last seven days, it has revealed a striking disconnect between matters of gravity and his trivial excitations.
These tweets have come both when he is very busy and apparently idle, often published by his own hand, sometimes by the hidden hand of aides tweeting his wishes under his account. Some in his orbit say he’s worried about an economic downturn and what that might do to his reelection chances, and that pressure is showing in his tweets.
Divining a change of winds in Trump’s Twitter performance — much less his overall temperament — can be a fraught exercise. A master of provocation and changing the subject, he famously uses the medium for visceral venting and as a cudgel when anyone or anything raises his ire. His only reliable pattern is erraticism.
But those close to him acknowledge this is a particularly scattershot stretch from an always restive president.
Four officials and Republicans close to the White House, none authorized to discuss private conversations and therefore speaking anonymously, say Trump has become consumed by his reelection chances and begun to fret privately about the economy slowing down and hurting his prospects as the trade war with China takes a deeper bite.
They also say Trump has grown more confident in his ability to do the job and less in need of the cooler heads who constrained some of his impulsiveness before. Given churning staff turnover, there are fewer such people anyway.
One result: a president bouncing from attack line to attack line in tweets divorced from or only marginally connected to the real-world events at hand. Over seven days:
FRIDAY, AUG. 23
Trump typically uses the performance of the stock market as a barometer of his success — when it goes up. On this day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average takes a sharp drop and Trump responds with a joke:
“The Dow is down 573 points perhaps on the news that Representative Seth Moulton, whoever that may be, has dropped out of the 2020 Presidential Race!”
SATURDAY, AUG. 24
Trump comes away from a two-hour meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the G-7 and is getting ready for dinner with the other leaders. He wants to explain a “Messiah complex” flap on Twitter:
“When I looked up to the sky and jokingly said ‘I am the chosen one,’ at a press conference two days ago, referring to taking on Trade with China, little did I realize that the media would claim that I had a ‘Messiah complex.’ They knew I was kidding, being sarcastic, and just having fun.”
SUNDAY, AUG. 25
On the sidelines of the G-7 summit of world leaders, French diplomacy produces an unexpected meeting with Iran’s foreign minister, a potentially groundbreaking development with an adversary of the West.
As this unfolds in the halls, Trump tweets in honor of talk-show veteran Regis Philbin: “Happy Birthday Regis, a truly special man!” Trump plays up an opinion poll he likes and makes the improbable claim that the other world leaders mainly want to know from him “why does the American media hate your Country so much?”
MONDAY, AUG. 26
Trump is in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and speaking to reporters about Islamic State fighters — not fumbling with his phone — when an aide tweets under his name:
“The story by Axios that President Trump wanted to blow up large hurricanes with nuclear weapons prior to reaching shore is ridiculous. I never said this. Just more FAKE NEWS!”
Axios stood by the story, which quoted unidentified officials and referred to a 2017 National Security Council memo said to have captured one conversation about bombing hurricanes. The government analyzed the idea generations ago and concluded it would not work.
TUESDAY, AUG. 27
A hurricane watch is in effect for Puerto Rico, still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Trump: “No bedbugs at Doral. The Radical Left Democrats, upon hearing that the perfectly located (for the next G-7) Doral National MIAMI was under consideration for the next G-7, spread that false and nasty rumor. Not nice!”
After pitching his Doral resort outside Miami as a locale for the next G-7 summit, Trump is annoyed by reports noting that a guest sued the property in 2016, alleging he suffered bedbug bites there. The Trump Organization denied the resort experienced an infestation. The Washington Post said the organization reached a settlement with the man who sued.
WEDNESDAY, AUG. 28
With anxiety growing in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands over the approaching storm, Trump is still on the subject of bedbugs. He tweets about bedbugs found in The New York Times building and seems exasperated that a hurricane is heading, “as usual, to Puerto Rico.” He swipes at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. Around this time, winds over the sea are gusting to more than 90 miles per hour, nearly 150 kilometers per hour.
A second tweet brands Puerto Rico “one of the most corrupt places on earth. Their political system is broken and their politicians are either Incompetent or Corrupt.” Fifteen minutes later, the hurricane watch is upgraded to a warning.
Into the evening, Trump is contemplating what the “Age of Trump” will look like many years from now. He hopes “a big part of my legacy will be the exposing of massive dishonesty in the Fake News!”
Dorian inflicted limited damage in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as it took a menacing track toward Florida.
THURSDAY, AUG. 29
Trump is celebrating Puerto Rico’s escape from major damage from Dorian, warning Florida to get ready and enjoying the predicament of a couple of people who get under his skin.
A day earlier, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell retracted his story about supposed Russian ties to Trump’s finances and apologized for reporting it. On Thursday, the FBI chief Trump fired, James Comey, was found by the Justice Department’s inspector general to have violated policy in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with the president and in giving sensitive, though not classified, information to the media.
“ALL APOLOGIZE!” Trump demanded.
That was the 27,275th tweet curated by the online Trump Twitter Archive since he joined in May 2009, not counting retweets.
His tone has changed since those days.
Back then, he offered occasional New Age bromides like this from his first month on Twitter: “Strive for wholeness and keep your sense of wonder intact.”
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Jill Colvin and Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.