The president’s tweets speak for themselves.
That is the White House’s go-to response when asked to clarify President Trump’s frequent Twitter outbursts lashing out at enemies both perceived and real.
And perhaps no tweets have spoken for themselves more than Trump’s explosive wiretapping allegation last month against former President Barack Obama. In an early-morning Twitter salvo, Trump called his predecessor a “bad” or “sick” guy, and declared without evidence that it was a “fact” that Obama had bugged his Trump Tower headquarters.
I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
“Did the president mean in any way to suggest that the FBI broke the law, or any other intelligence agencies, with this allegation of wiretapping?” a reporter asked White House press secretary Sean Spicer on March 6, two days after the accusation.
“I’m just going to let the tweet speak for itself,” Spicer replied.
“Are the American people supposed to pull back and suddenly think that this is not the president of the United States accusing his predecessor of committing a crime when he writes it that way?” another reporter asked.
Spicer again let the president’s tweets stand on their own: “Look, I think the president speaks very candidly. His tweets speak for themselves.”
But the White House has sometimes offered elaborate clarifications of Trump’s Twitter barbs. On March 13, for example, Spicer defended the wiretapping allegation by noting that Trump had mostly used quotation marks around “wiretapping,” supposedly suggesting a nonliteral interpretation. Spicer insisted that the president “was very clear in his tweet that it was wiretapping, that that spans a whole host of surveillance types of options.”
NBC’s Hallie Jackson asked Spicer to explain when a Trump Twitter barb speaks for itself and when it doesn’t.
“When do you decide when a president’s tweets, when his words are open to interpretation and when those words stand on their own?” she asked.
The reply? “I mean, his tweets do speak for themselves.”