WASHINGTON — A few days after he ordered the airstrike that killed Iran’s top military official Gen. Qassem Soleimani, President Donald Trump did what he normally does in times of big domestic or international news: He tweeted through it.
On Sunday, Trump declared that a 263-character tweet would serve as his official notification for future military action against Iran.
“These Media Posts will serve as notification to Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly and fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!” he tweeted to his 70 million followers.
After reading the post on Tuesday, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said the tweet was sufficient notification to Congress. “Yeah. I think so. Yep. It’s pretty specific. Tweets aren’t like they used to be. This is a president of tweets and they’re all taken pretty seriously,” he told BuzzFeed News.
It’s unprecedented for a president to notify Congress and the American public of pending war strategies via social media. That same day Trump tweeted the US was targeting 52 Iranian sites — some of them cultural sites — which would violate international law. He later walked the comment back, saying “he’d like to obey the law.” Republicans say the president’s messaging strategy is just a way to keep his millions of followers tuned in to national politics.
Sen. Kevin Cramer told BuzzFeed News the president’s tweet messaging was fine but added that there are “more official ways” of notifying Congress.
“I always say about Donald Trump and his tweets and his communications style ‘take him seriously, not literally.’ As he always says, if he didn’t do this, most of the national audience wouldn’t know what he’s saying,” Cramer told BuzzFeed News.
"Oh, I don’t mind, I guess. To me, it’s the new normal,” Cramer said when asked if he’d like to see future presidents communicate the same way.
Sens. John Barrasso and Tim Scott said they hadn’t seen the president’s tweet. When BuzzFeed News offered to show the tweet to Scott, he declined. “That’s OK,” he said before heading into an office.
Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama called the tweet “tongue and cheek.”
Democrats disagreed with their Republican colleagues, and some of them replied to Sunday’s tweet expressing their opposition.
“Presidential notification of Congress about the need to exercise war powers cannot be satisfied in 280 characters or less,” Joe Biden said during a fundraiser in New York City on Tuesday.
“He should notify Congress with normal processes,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney told BuzzFeed News, adding that the president should de-escalate the tensions in the area.
On Tuesday night, after Iran had launched several missiles at US military bases in Iraq, Trump tweeted that “all is well” and made a statement the following morning that there were no US or Iraqi casualties. When Iran launched the strike, one of the country’s government officials let the world know who was responsible...with a tweet.