Trump ramps up Twitter offensive as Dorian approaches Florida

President Trump on Tuesday escalated his days-long attacks on his critics over Twitter as Hurricane Dorian made its way toward Florida after devastating the Bahamas.

The Twitter assault that began over Labor Day weekend and consisted of more than 100 tweets targeting the media and his critics spilled into Tuesday, when Trump fired off about a dozen messages before noon.

{mosads}This time, the mayor of London, the trade war with China, the Federal Reserve and a days-old inspector general’s report about former FBI Director James Comey were front of mind for Trump as Hurricane Dorian tracked north toward the East Coast.

Trump’s public schedule was barren for most of the day. He received his intelligence briefing in the morning and met with Defense Secretary Mark Esper in the afternoon.

The president is likely to be scrutinized for how he handles the fallout from Hurricane Dorian. His response to past storms — Hurricane Maria in particular — remains a point of contention for many of his critics and residents of the affected areas.

“The president … is supposed to be the wind that kind of pushes your back instead of kind of serving as an obstacle for preparation to a major storm like this,” said Rafael Lemaitre, director of public affairs during the Obama administration at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“The president tends to politicize disasters when he does talk about them,” Lemaitre added.

Dorian was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane on Tuesday and began moving toward the Florida coast after coming to a standstill over the Bahamas, battering the island and killing at least five people.

Trump canceled his plans to visit Poland over the holiday weekend, citing his desire to stay in the U.S. and monitor the response to Dorian. He has been receiving regular briefings on the hurricane over the past several days.

But his focus appeared to be elsewhere at times.

Following a trio of tweets sharing information from the National Hurricane Center, Trump defended himself Tuesday amid an outpouring of criticism for spending roughly eight hours at his Virginia golf club over the weekend.

“The incompetent Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was bothered that I played a very fast round of golf yesterday,” Trump tweeted, singling out one of the many critics who took issue with the time spent on the links. “Many Pols exercise for hours, or travel for weeks. Me, I run through one of my courses (very inexpensive). President Obama would fly to Hawaii.”

In other tweets, Trump projected optimism about his strategy toward China in the ongoing trade war between the world’s two largest economies. He sought to pressure Beijing to come to the table more urgently, warning that any deal would be “MUCH TOUGHER” if the two sides did not reach an agreement before the 2020 election.

He also mocked the “geniuses” who urged him to partner with the European Union to take on China, and took aim at familiar targets in the Federal Reserve and Comey, who has been mentioned in nearly a dozen of the president’s tweets since the weekend began.

“Based on the IG Report, the whole Witch Hunt against me and my administration was a giant and illegal SCAM,” Trump tweeted. “The House of Representatives should now get back to work on drug prices, healthcare, infrastructure and all else.”

The president’s first three tweets of the day shared information from the National Hurricane Center on Dorian and another potential tropical cyclone forming in the Atlantic.

Trump on Tuesday evening said the storm’s path had shifted to the point that the mainland U.S. “may be getting a little bit lucky,” but also urged “don’t let down your guard.”

“As it heads up the coast, lots of very bad and unpredictable things can happen!” he tweeted. “On the other hand, the Bahamas have been devastated. We are sending crews to help!”

Lemaitre argued that the most important asset Trump has during a looming natural disaster is the ability to reach the American public and spread the word about available resources.

But that message has been muddled at times.

Trump tweeted Sunday that Alabama could be affected by Dorian, prompting the National Weather Service in Birmingham to alert its Twitter followers that the state was not under threat by the storm.

Trump later expressed amazement that Dorian had grown to a Category 5 storm, saying at a FEMA briefing Sunday that he had not heard of such a powerful storm, even though Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida last year as a Category 5.

{mossecondads}”It’s important that the president have some basic command of what is happening with regard to this storm so that the American people, regardless of party, can have at least some semblance of trust in his ability to handle what may happen,” Lemaitre said. 

“You don’t have to be a meteorologist, but I think you do have to at least have enough credibility so that when you ask people to do things that they believe you and they trust your judgment,” he added.

Dorian is projected to approach Florida’s east coast Tuesday night, lashing the state with high winds and heavy rains. The coasts of Georgia and South Carolina are expected to be hit in the coming days, and residents in its projected path have been ordered to evacuate.

The president has issued emergency declarations for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina in order to mobilize additional government resources.

Trump will likely visit at least one area affected by the storm once it has passed, as he has done following previous hurricanes during his presidency.

“The good news is that right now FEMA is being led by a group of career officials who have been battle-tested through a couple of really tough hurricane seasons now,” Lemaitre said.

Tags Donald Trump James Comey Mark Esper
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