Imagine being the lawyers who had to draft this letter. You go to college, study hard. Get into a good law school, study even harder. Graduate at the top of your class. Maybe do a clerkship with a federal judge. Decide to pass on the big money at the white-shoe law firms to serve the public at the DOJ instead. Catch bad guys! Fight terrorists! You’re working for Uncle Sam now.
Then your boss stops by your desk and asks you to write something up arguing that the First Amendment doesn’t limit the president’s power to totally pwn trolls on his Twitter account.
How do you not resign? Look at this crap. You may not be able to see the tear stains on the page but they’re there, I promise:
I think they’re right on the merits that there’s no constitutional problem with him blocking people from his personal account on a private forum. But that’s beside the point. The point is that instead of wasting the time of DOJ lawyers by asking them to defend this matter, he could just unblock all of the plaintiffs. It would take five seconds. He wouldn’t even need to see their tweets if he did. As every Twitter user knows, the “mute” function allows you to remove someone’s tweets from the replies that you see without alerting them to that fact. Essentially it’s a way of blocking someone without letting them know they’ve been blocked. Why doesn’t he do that? Can’t Hope Hicks pull him aside before she departs for good and show him the mute button on the app?
What is he doing reading through his Twitter “mentions” anyway, let alone allowing the nasty ones to get under his skin to the point where he’s blocking random people for insulting him? He gets thousands upon thousands of replies to any given tweet; no matter how much “executive time” he might have on a particular day, he must have better things to do than sift through social-media detritus. Golf. “Fox & Friends”! Reruns of “The Apprentice.” Literally anything is a more productive use of your time than worrying about your Twitter replies, particularly when there are mountains of them to sort through.
The weird thing is, as the DOJ notes, that he has other “official” Twitter accounts like @POTUS that are also getting ruthlessly trolled daily. His personal account at @realDonaldTrump is being trolled moment by moment despite his best efforts to purge the nasty ones because there are just too many to eliminate. (Social media for a famous person must feel like being trapped in a zombie movie, and Trump’s the most famous person alive.) It’s possible, I guess, that there’s some important legal principle at stake here independent of Trump’s personal interest that’s driving the DOJ to defend his power to Twitter-block — like, say, delineating the lines between state action and personal individual action in government use of increasingly ubiquitous social-media forums.
But that’s horrible in its own way. Other presidents in the future might have this sort of social-media presence too? I just assumed that the daily Trump Twitter spectacle would warn away future officeholders from following his lead, kind of like how no British king has been named “John” in 800 years because of lingering bad vibes from the last one.
Exit question: Why doesn’t Twitter just nuke the block feature for elected officials? Problem solved.