WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweetstorm in the wake of the guilty plea by his former national security adviser Michael Flynn again raised concerns about the commander in chief’s frequent use of the social media platform.
But on Saturday, CIA Director Mike Pompeo insisted Trump’s prolific use of Twitter is actually helping his agency gather valuable intelligence.
“I have actually seen it help us,” Pompeo said, when asked at the Reagan National Security Forum on Saturday whether Trump’s social media activity was making his job harder.
“I have seen things the president has put on his Twitter account actually have a real-world impact on our ability to understand things that are happening in other places in the world,” Pompeo said.
“That is, our adversaries responding to those tweets in ways that were helpful to us, to understand command and control issues, who’s listening to what messages, how those messages are resonating around the world,” Pompeo said.
On Monday, Trump said he feels “very badly” for Flynn, who last week pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about reaching out to the Russians on the president’s behalf. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that the FBI’s reputation is “in Tatters — worst in History!” He vowed to “bring it back to greatness.”
Former CIA Director Leon Panetta has been critical of the president’s retweeting of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British group. On stage with Pompeo on Saturday, Panetta ripped into the president’s Twitter activity overall, casting it as undisciplined and disruptive.
“The whole purpose of the White House is to develop some discipline in terms of messaging, in terms of policy,” said Panetta, who served as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. “When you wake up in the morning, if you’re chief of staff and you suddenly have a bunch of tweets out there that are raising all kinds of hell in different areas, it’s very upsetting to the operation.”
“Frankly, if I had my view, I would take that tweeter and throw it out the window,” Panetta said.
Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa have traded criticism in recent days as British lawmakers labeled Trump a hate peddler over the tweets, sparking fears the “special relationship” is hitting a rough patch.
The furor erupted after Trump, who has almost 44 million Twitter followers, last week retweeted three anti-Muslim videos posted by a leader of the far-right group Britain First. The tiny group regularly posts inflammatory videos purporting to show Muslims engaged in acts of violence, but without providing context or supporting information.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster, in an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” said the president had good intentions and was trying to highlight the importance of keeping Americans safe.
Panetta, however, called these tweets “dangerous” and inflammatory. In 2012, then-Defense Secretary Panetta issued an apology after the burning of Korans at U.S base Bagram Airfield sparked violence and protests across Afghanistan.
“The problem is lives can be jeopardized,” Panetta said. “It is not something [Trump] should do because when you put something like that out there, you don’t know what the consequences will be.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.