Even for Tweeter-in-Chief Donald Trump, sowing doubts about legislation he says he supports marked a novel exercise in confusion. And it played out on the web in real time.
“House votes on controversial FISA ACT today,” the Twitter message from his account began as posted at 7:33 a.m. Thursday.
Trump was referring to the surveillance program that allows warrantless collection of Americans’ email, texts, photos and other electronic communications.
The White House has been pushing as recently as Wednesday night for the program’s six-year renewal.
But you wouldn’t have known that from the rest of Trump’s 7:33 a.m. tweet, which said:
“This is the act that may have been used, with the help of the discredited and phony Dossier, to so badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign by the previous administration and others?”
No elaboration was quickly available. But Trump’s 280-character rant seemed to reference his earlier unsupported claim about the prior Obama administration supposedly spying on Trump Tower and drumming up a Russia collusion issue.
On this occasion, however, Trump appears to have been ginned up by on-air talkers Andrew Napolitano and Steve Doocy on Fox News, Trump’s favorite network. They were criticizing the bill’s potential abuses just before Trump posted on Twitter.
Indeed, Trump’s 7:33 a.m. tweet could have been addressed directly to the Fox crew, posed as it was in question form.
But the president’s sudden doubts about the FISA measure — if that’s what they were — didn’t appear to last. An hour and 41 minutes later, Trump followed up with a second tweet.
Strangely, this new tweet read as if only a moment had passed since the last one.
“With that being said,” Trump began at 9:14 a.m., “I have personally directed the fix to the unmasking process since taking office and today’s vote is about foreign surveillance of foreign bad guys on foreign land. We need it! Get smart!”
At the start of the morning, however, the FISA measure didn’t sound like something Trump “personally directed.” It sounded more like it was the first he was hearing of it.
But whatever was really going on, by noon the House had voted 265-164 to extend the program, known as Section 702 of FISA, for six years.
For America, that’s the bottom line.
The rest goes down for now as some kind of brief, bizarre, multiplatform reality show.