President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration is about three weeks away, but his Twitter account has already ruffled feathers at the White House. The latest flashpoint came Wednesday when he condemned a U.N. vote critical of Israeli settlements.
The U.S. has only one president at a time, responsible for setting foreign policy. To avoid confusion during the transition, incoming presidents usually avoid those topics, but not Mr. Trump. Twitter has given him a 24-hour megaphone, reports CBS News correspondent Jan Crawford.
From his Florida estate, Mr. Trump’s 140-character proclamations reverberate in capitals around the world. A flurry of tweets has promised changes to Middle East policy when he takes office in January, prompting this response from Secretary of State John Kerry:
“I think it’s having some impact, obviously, on allies who are questioning, you know, what’s going on. But they have their own policies. They’re not going to be swayed and intimidated by a tweet,” Kerry said on MSNBC.
Wall Street Journal White House reporter Carol Lee says Mr. Trump has done away with the notion that the sitting president should be the one speaking on behalf of the nation – and not the president-elect.
“It’s another instance in which Donald Trump is re-writing the rules and breaking with tradition,” Lee said. It has caused “a lot of friction,” she also said.
This month, Mr. Trump suggested he will expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal and made overtures to Taiwan, angering officials on the Chinese mainland.
Like President Franklin D. Roosevelt did through radio, and President John F. Kennedy with television, Mr. Trump’s tweets can dominate a news cycle.
He spoke to “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl about the power of his Twitter account last month.
“When you give me a bad story or when you give me an inaccurate story or when somebody other than you and another network, or whatever, because of course, CBS would never do a thing like that right? I have a method of fighting back,” Mr. Trump said.
Aides say Trump will continue to tweet when he moves into the White House.
“I think that his use of social media… is going to be something that’s never been seen before, he has this direct pipeline to the American people,” Mr. Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer said.
Others will be listening too. The tweeter-in-chief’s new followers will likely include hostile governments and foreign spies.
“Intelligence agencies all over the world sift through social media. They love social media. It’s a great way to get insight,” said James Lewis, the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ director of the Strategic Technologies Program.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump turned his Twitter account on President Obama, accusing him of setting up roadblocks.
In the closing days of his administration, Obama officials have been trying to cement his legacy and ensure his policies can’t be easily reversed when he leaves office.