Trump tweets stir debate about intimidation

Trump tweets stir debate about intimidation
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President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session Gosar's siblings pen op-ed urging for his resignation: 'You are immune to shame' Sunday shows - Delta variant, infrastructure dominate MORE's Twitter insults and attacks are stirring new worries, particularly for his targets. 

Chuck Jones, a United Steelworkers official representing employees at Carrier's Indianapolis plant, said he endured threats after Trump ripped him in a Tweet to his 17 million followers. 

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Trump's attack came soon after Jones had publicly criticized the president-elect over his efforts to prevent Indiana jobs at the plant from moving to Mexico. Jones said Trump had “lied his ass off.”

“Chuck Jones, who is President of United Steelworkers 1999, has done a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!” Trump retorted on Twitter. 

Soon after, Jones told reporters that his phone had been ringing repeatedly with threats.

“Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids, we know what car you drive. Things along those lines,” he told MSNBC’s “The Last Word.” 

The union head isn't the only Trump target to take heat from the president-elect's supporters—the New York Times is keeping a running list of the “people, places and things Donald Trump has insulted on Twitter.” 

As of Friday, the count is at 289.

The list includes Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, who candidate Trump criticized on Twitter as “highly overrated,” “crazy,” and “sick.” 

NBC journalist Katie Tur and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado are on the list too, along with a handful of Trump’s former biographers, business associates and journalists that covered him on the campaign trail. 

Kelly recently told NPR that she had “strange people casing my house” that scared her children, calling 2016 “my year of guards and guns—you know, thanks to Trump.” 

In August, Tur, who Trump called out personally during a handful of rallies, told Marie Claire that Secret Service walked her to her car after a rally in South Carolina after the crowd “seemed to turn on me like a large animal, angry and unchained.” 

Trump’s tweets often rile up his supporters—his bashing of the Broadway show Hamilton led supporters to call for a boycott of the sold-out show. 

Now his personal attacks have prompted deep concerns, given that Trump is set to become commander-in-chief. 

Former Democratic Labor Secretary Robert Reich accused Trump of promoting “mass intimidation” on citizens’ right to free speech. 

“You are going to be president very shortly, you are going to have at your command not just Twitter but also the CIA, IRS, and FBI,” he said Wednesday night on CNN. 

“If you have this kind of thin-skinned, vindictive attitude to anyone that criticizes you, we are in very deep trouble, and sir, so are you.”

Jones, the union representative at Carrier, downplayed any concerns about his safety emanating from the threats, noting that in 30 years working in the union, he's “used to it.”

But others say there is a risk that people will be afraid to speak out against the president for fear of being targeted by a Twitter mob.

Though that also raises difficult questions, said Thompson.

“If what he tweets unleashes all of this, does that mean he shouldn’t be saying these things? How much do we link them together? It’s complicated—not arithmetic, but calculus.”

Trump’s supporters brush aside the notion that his tweets aren’t presidential. 

Jeffrey Lord, a prominent Trump cable television surrogate told The Hill that Trump is following through on his promise to shake up the system and that “smart presidents” use changes in technology to their advantage. 

And he added that Trump is wise not to let criticism go unchecked, arguing that President George W. Bush’s legacy was damaged by refusing to push back. 

“Karl Rove said something to the effect that they made a mistake not answering critics on Iraq,” Lord said. 

“With the Carrier example, the subtext there is that Trump isn’t being honest. You can’t let something like that stand. If you just sit there quietly while people constantly go after you for something like that, over time, the damage will mount up as it did for Bush.” 

Trump’s supporters also say the strategy helps to bypass the media, which the president-elect believes hasn’t been a fair steward of his message. It’s proof, GOP strategist Ron Bonjean said, that Trump is sticking to the path that got him to the White House. 

“Trump is quickly becoming the Teddy Roosevelt of the internet—using a populist push and social media to make a really powerful impact,” Bonjean said. 

“Many companies and people aren’t going to like it, but…he’s making a strategic decision to stay connected to the voters that supported him and show that he’s not changing now.”