All things considered, the night of August 28 had been a good one for President Donald Trump. As the polls closed on Republican midterm primaries in Florida and Arizona, his allies were ascendant, including notable Trump ultra-loyalist Ron DeSantis clinching the Florida Republican gubernatorial nomination. He could have padded off quietly for bed, a small victory tucked in the pocket of his presidential pajamas. Alas, no.
He had something he needed to get off his chest.
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It was 11 minutes after midnight. With that inaugural, likely-Fox-News-inspired burst of vitriol, the president kicked off a 24-hour period that would become his single most prolific performance on social media for the year. From 12:11 a.m. to 10:27 p.m. on Wednesday, August 29, the only person in the United States with the keys to the nuclear football and unfettered access to social media would tweet 22 times, narrowly inching past a handful of other 21- and 20-tweet days for the year’s top spot. He lurched discursively from boast to grievance to invective in a manner unfocused even by the standards of his notoriously short attention span. “Our country is doing great!,” he beamed at 10:56 a.m. “How the hell is Bruce Ohr still employed at the Justice Department?,” he glowered just 15 minutes later.
The president had more than his fair share of, um, notable moments on Twitter this year. He fired or publicly humiliated his own Cabinet members, made all-caps threats against Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, and boasted about his ability to knock out former Vice President Joe Biden “fast and hard.” On this day—just three days after the death of Senator John McCain, as Washington obsessed over preparations for a funeral to which Trump would not be invited—Trump did not brag about the size of his nuclear button, that he is a “very stable genius” or disparage a sitting member of Congress as a “low IQ person,” all of which would appear on anyone’s list of his most notorious blasts of 2018. But August 29 was nevertheless peak Trump, when he spilled the contents of his psychological handbag all over the world’s collective timeline, hurling invective against law enforcement, the media, trade opponents and his favorite punching bag, Hillary Clinton. More than any of that, however, Trump’s record-setting barrage of tweets that day reveals the elemental truth that, when it comes to venting his spleen via social media, he simply cannot help himself.
Some people drink a warm cup of herbal tea or settle in with a good book to relax before bedtime. One might think after his late-night broadside against Bruce Ohr, Trump might have chosen such a path, in an attempt to ease his mind for what would surely be a full next day of presidenting. One would be incorrect. A little more than half an hour later, he tweeted:
Having killed two birds with one stone by weighing in on the Arizona primary results while getting in a parting shot at longtime foe Jeff Flake, the president finally—presumably—put his head to the pillow, and his twitter thumbs went quiet. It was 12:44 a.m.
Seven hours and 16 minutes later, he resumed his “modern day presidential” monologue with a similar razor-blade-inside-a-candy-apple of a missive to his nearly 60 million followers:
Trump’s schedule was fairly light that day, including an intelligence briefing at 11:30 a.m., an announcement of a federal grant for “drug free communities” at 2:30 p.m., and his and the first lady’s reception for the White House Historical Association later in the evening. He would, of course, find ways to occupy himself in between times. He began the day at the usual leisurely pace, with his friends on the small screen at Fox News.
After apparently clearing the DVR of the most recent Tucker Carlson broadcast, quoting Carlson approvingly along the way, Trump was moved to speech by a Fox segment on anonymous sourcing:
They were tweets Nos. and 7 of the day. It was still before 9 in the morning.
After praising McSally again and then falling silent for about an hour and a half (a late breakfast, perhaps? A couple of minutes with that morning’s “failing New York Times”?) Trump tweeted at 10:30 a.m. to confirm the resignation of White House counsel Don McGahn. It had been revealed earlier in the month that McGahn had cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt,” so Trump’s public airing of a personnel matter was probably not a huge surprise.
To coincide with the Press Office’s pushing a Business Insider story showing strong Q2 economic growth, he tweeted at 10:56 a.m. the aforementioned boast about how “great” the country is doing, only to follow it up with another oblique reference to the “Witch Hunt” in his attack on Bruce Ohr less than 20 minutes later.
At 11:30 a.m., the president received his daily intelligence briefing, according to pool reports. That day then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was attempting to direct traffic on the world response to the genocide in Myanmar, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was reinstating the aforementioned joint drills on the Korean Peninsula, but none of these apparently piqued Trump to put them on the Twitter feed where it really counts.
The rest of the president’s afternoon was taken up by the announcement of the federal anti-drug grant program, and a tetchy exchange with reporters in the Roosevelt Room afterward during which he faced questions about McGahn’s resignation (a “really good guy”), Ron DeSantis’ infamous comments about “monkey”-ing up the Florida gubernatorial election (Trump hadn’t heard the comments), and the government’s response to the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico (“a fantastic job”), according to Laura Figueroa of Newsday’s pool report.
After a long day of dealing with the “fake news,” he let loose just minutes before 5 p.m. with perhaps the strangest tweet in that day’s fusillade: his sharing of an enigmatic video that repeated the unsubstantiated claim that Google has consciously refused to promote Trump’s State of the Union addresses in the same manner it promoted Obama’s. Trump tweeted out the video with the simple caption “#StopTheBias,” leading to an approving retweet from top House Republican and Trump loyalist Kevin McCarthy, who added, “When they try to silence our views we must speak louder. #StopTheBias.” The video followed a Twitter rant from the previous day in which the president declared that Google and other news sources “have it RIGGED” to provide only “bad” news on Trump.
After that video, Trump shared an unusually formal “STATEMENT FROM THE WHITE HOUSE,” of unclear origin but very much in his distinctive voice, as he prepared for the Historical Association reception. The “STATEMENT” was part of Trump’s effort to ease nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula and weaken the U.S. military presence there, citing his “very good and warm” relationship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Trump fired off one last cable news-inspired potshot at 6:43 p.m. before heading to the reception, this time at famed reporter Carl Bernstein. He didn’t mince words in a typically personal, carelessly punctuated attack that ripped Bernstein over a month-old CNN story regarding his former personal attorney Michael Cohen’s cooperation with Mueller:
The reception for the Historical Association, the nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting all things associated with the presidential residence, into which Trump would step just minutes later was, coincidentally, an occasion for his social media presence to be put into sharp focus with that of the first lady, who would post a slickly edited promotional film showcasing the event on her Instagram the next day. (Trump would post a few pictures on his Instagram account, as well: They were all about him.)
Freed from his duties after the reception ended at 8:30 p.m., Trump returned just 15 minutes later to the loving embrace in which his day began: that of Fox News’ LED glow, as he cited Bret Baier’s commentary on a recent CNN report.
He would go on to quote frequent Fox talking head Gregg Jarrett at length across two tweets regarding the “Fake Dossier” (that would be the dossier of allegedly embarrassing behavior by Trump compiled by former British MI6 agent Christopher Steele) and the evil deeds of DOJ’s Ohr, just before 10 p.m. His 22nd, and final, tweet of the day was to promote a Breitbart article touting Kanye West’s recent complimentary remarks toward him.
Trump began and ended his day in the Fox-enhanced media feedback loop that feeds his ideology, bolsters his fan base, and keeps the Twitter discourse raging (and ad revenues rising). It’s a chicken-and-egg problem—does Trump create the talking points, or do the talking points create him? Viewed discretely, the individual days of Trump’s life online are closed systems awaiting study by future media scholars. August 29, 2018, may prove to be one of the most fruitful, if only by virtue of its sheer volume and disparate subjects. But then again slicing his timeline too finely risks missing a larger point: For Trump, twitter means never having to stop.
His first tweet of August 30, directed at “Little Jeff Z” (Z, as in Zucker, president of CNN) and his network’s “hatred and extreme bias” of the president, came at 6:50 a.m., just eight minutes after sunrise.