Trump’s ‘media post’ on war powers shows he doesn’t understand how war powers — or the internet — work

President Trump uses Twitter a lot. On December 12, for instance, he tweeted a record 112 times in one day. Trump uses Twitter to convey a range of emotions – from anger and rage at his impeachment inquiry, to unfettered glee at the failure of his opponents. But over the weekend, Trump used Twitter to inform Congress (and Iran) of his plans in the most distant-cousin-sending-you-an-email-chain-letter way possible.

“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!” Trump tweeted from his Mar-a-Lago Club on Sunday afternoon.

(Of course, that’s not how any of this works, and on Saturday the White House sent a formal notification to Congress regarding the January 2 drone strike on Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani. The War Powers Act of 1973 dictates that the president must send official notification to Congress within 48 hours of a conflict abroad.)

Yale Law Professor Oona Hathaway took to Twitter on Saturday to explain exactly what’s wrong with the president’s claim – and why Twitter doesn’t count as “official.”

As one Congressional aide told CNN, “The President has Article II authority to defend American assets/ personnel but this would seem to exceed that under traditional interpretations.”

But the president seems to believe that simply declaring something in a public forum makes it true. It’s a logic that’s duped people time and again to participate in hinky online hoaxes and scams.

Remember in 2015, for example, when everyone in your Facebook feed was posting some variation of the below statement:

Facebook alert

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Facebook

A similar privacy post regarding Instagram circulated in 2019.

Rob Low Instagram privacy

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Instagram

To wit, that’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

Still, Congress took to – what else? – Twitter to voice their concern over Trump’s use of the social media platform to declare war.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs then issued it’s own “Media Post.”

Three years into the Trump administration, the president is now using his favorite internet tool to try to wage war, and – legal or not – we have no choice but to take it seriously.