Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP
President Donald Trump has pushed his Twitter account to somehow new extremes this week. On Tuesday, he inflamed Democratic congressional leaders, leading them to pull out of a meeting planned to talk over how to avoid a government shutdown. And on Wednesday morning, he smashed the retweet button on anti-Muslim videos shared by an ultranationalist British party leader, which led to condemnation from British Prime Minister Theresa May. He capped his morning by vaguely suggesting that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was involved in a murder.
But anyone looking for Trump's supporters to declare that maybe he has finally crossed a line would be disappointed: The president's loyalists basically love it.
“Sometimes he tweets stuff that's on the mark, and sometimes it makes us uncomfortable,” said former campaign official Bryan Lanza, “But he's right, we should be afraid of radical Islam, we are targets.”
“Today we’re talking about radical Islamic terrorism again and the travel ban,” said a former top campaign aide, waving away the controversy over the source of the anti-Muslim videos. “In the real world, no one gives a shit.”
The videos, titled “Islamist mob pushes teenage boy off roof and beats him to death,” “Muslim destroys a statue of Virgin Mary,” and “Muslim migrant beats up Dutch boy on crutches,” were shocking coming from the president of the United States, and drew immediate anger from British officials who have condemned their source, the nationalist Britain First party.
“It is wrong for the president to have done this,” May's spokesman said Wednesday morning. “Britain First seeks to divide communities through their use of hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions. They cause anxiety to law-abiding people.”
Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and Lindsey Graham were both critical of Trump's retweets, with Graham saying that he was “legitimizing religious bigotry” that would hurt relations with Muslim allies.
The White House has largely brushed aside concern about the tweets, despite the tweet claiming to show a migrant assaulting a “Dutch boy on crutches” being a false video that has long circulated in anti-Muslim corners of the Internet.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tossed aside questions about the videos' veracity, saying Wednesday morning that “Whether it's a real video, the threat is real. His goal is to promote strong border security and strong national security.” Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah made a similar point when pressed by reporters on Air Force One on the way to Missouri. “We think that it's never the wrong time to talk about security and public safety for the American people. Those are the issues he was raising with the tweets this morning.”
Across the pro-Trump corners of the internet, the tweets were celebrated as evidence of the president's media savvy. On 4chan's /pol/ message board — which frequently espouses anti-Muslim and racist ideologies — anonymous commenters praised Trump's ability to drive press coverage with his Twitter feed.
“Trump's a genius. He's put the media in a no win situation,” one anti-Muslim commenter wrote of Trump's choice of retweets. “Either they ignore his shitposts and lose out on viewers, or they look at his shitposts and show their viewers muzzies being muzzies.”
A number of Trump supporters feel that just by amplifying Britain First's message, Trump has forced the media to display views that align with their beliefs. “I like how all these fake news headlines are outraged at the're tweeting of far right groups tweets' instead of the actual content shown in the tweet,” CuckooCuckoon, a commenter on the pro-Trump subreddit The_Donald, said.
On Twitter, Breitbart writer John Nolte used Trump's morning tweets to level critiques against mainstream reporters, who he argues are so consumed by Trump's tweets that they always “take the bait.”
“Trump's most impressive skill is being able to pull the elite media into pissing matches where they always reveal themselves to be liars, hypocrites, small, and self-righteous,” he wrote. “Instead of just doing their jobs, time and again they take the bait. Remarkable to watch.”
A separate source close to the administration said that, while they were confused as to why the president chose this moment to retweet anti-Muslim tweets, they said one of the first things that drew them to Trump during the campaign was his willingness to share his strong views on terrorism.
“The thing I found most refreshing about him was he was willing to talk truthfully about the Islamist movement,” the source said. “He was the first politician I knew of who ever spoke extremely honestly about it.”
Calling Trump's Twitter account the president’s “most powerful political offensive weapon in the world right now,” Lanza said he wasn't worried that impulsive Trump tweets could endanger policy or negotiations, as they already did this week with Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi.
“When he tweets, it's with a purpose,” Lanza said. “He showed Chuck and Nancy canceling a meeting over a tweet shows how unserious they are over negotiations.”
The former top campaign aide paused before declining to directly answer if there was some line or some area that Trump couldn't cross over on Twitter. The aide instead focused on Trump's 2016 victory.
“He found a way to turn blue states red,” the source said. “He’s got his finger on the pulse of American voters.”
Even though Trump has regularly used his Twitter account since becoming president to lambaste political targets or make accusations of impropriety against people like Hillary Clinton, the tenor of his tweets this week have caught even jaded critics off guard. Symone Sanders, a strategist for Democratic Priorities USA who also serves as a CNN contributor, said that despite criticizing Trump every day, the last 48 hours had shown her that the president doesn't have a basic level of respect for his office.
“Retweeting those Islamophobic videos, that baseline is not there,” she said. “A lot of things he's done made me question if the baseline was there, but now I'm convinced it's not there. Trump has no filter and no boundaries that he will not cross, and that makes him a dangerous man.”
But Trump's supporters have been content to marvel at the man they see as the Troll-in-Chief.
Breitbart chose to play Wedneday's retweets straight on its website, running a summary of the news with no editorial commentary on the tweets. Breitbart's commenters, however, were delighted by the president's feed.
“YUP..President Trump – King of the Trolls,” the top comment on the article read.