By Daniel J. McLaughlin
With Donald Trump sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office, he has a considerable amount of power in his hands - and with just one finger, he can unleash destruction and devastation. Nope, not with the big red button. It doesn't exist. (It is a nuclear football - it looks nothing like a football, it's more of a leather briefcase.) The president's digits can cause damage when he applies pressure to his smartphone, and unleashes fire and fury on social media. This time, the damage he inflicts could be upon himself.
"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," Trump vented on Twitter, "He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"
Michael Flynn announced on Friday that he was co-operating with prosecutors and ready to testify about Russian contacts. The former national security adviser pleaded guilty to one count of lying to the FBI, admitting that he lied in interviews with agents shortly after the inauguration.
Both halves of the president's tweet are "jaw-dropping", the Los Angeles Times argues. The first half reveals that Trump knew that Flynn had already lied to the FBI at the same time he pushed for James Comey to drop the investigation. This attempt to push the Justice Department to "stifle an investigation of a known felon sounds a lot like obstruction of justice".
The second half, they add, is equally disturbing. By arguing that Flynn had done nothing wrong, it appears to assert that it was perfectly fine for the former national security adviser "to make contact with Russian government actors before Trump was actually president".
For someone who claims that he is not concerned about Robert Mueller's investigation into the alleged links with Russia, the president does like to remind us about it constantly. CNN notes that he "tapped out double-digit tweets" to reiterate this belief, blaming the FBI, the investigation itself, and his former political opponent, Hillary Clinton. Oh, and the so-called "fake news" media, of course. They add: "Overcompensate much?"
The implication from his Twitter tirade is that the day after he fired Flynn, he reportedly approached Comey to see if he could find a way to "letting this go" - already aware that the former national security adviser had lied to the bureau.
"Thus began a string of Trump tweets (and retweets) in which he seemed to lash out in five directions all at once," CNN writes, "Which is either an attempt to distract from that first tweet or just Trump tweeting whatever comes into his head at any given moment.
"If there is a method to this madness – and I am on record as being skeptical that there is some sort of deep strategy at work here – it is to muddy the waters, to distract from the Flynn guilty plea by insisting that he's not at all worried about it and then throwing out lots and lots of other things for his base to focus on/be outraged about."
Unlike Trump's immediate tweets, a stream of consciousness from his mind to his keyboard, the aftermath of Flynn's guilty plea requires patience. While it does not look good for the president, it does not necessarily spell another step towards impeachment. USA Today argues that "no judgment should be made until special counsel Robert Mueller presents his full case". Even then, the technical legalities and the alleged lies to the bureau may not have an impact – it would be the public opinion on the president's behaviour.
Robert Mueller will be paying close attention to what Donald Trump is up to - and public statements and lashings out on Twitter to tens of millions of followers will not be hard to miss. He may use social media to devastating effect, but the damage could be done to his own presidency if he persists.