The staff of the National Security Council is “struggl[ing]” to turn Donald Trump’s tweets into actual policy, according to a New York Times report released Sunday. The paper described the atmosphere at the NSC as “chaotic and anxious,” and said that officials “get up in the morning, read President Trump’s Twitter posts and struggle to make policy to fit them,” unaware of what the president tells foreign leaders in his phone calls.
The Times article offers a number of troubling anecdotes to capture the agency’s current condition. Among other disturbing measures, staff members have reportedly turned to encrypted messaging services to communicate with one another, fearing the Trump administration may begin monitoring their phone calls and emails to combat leaks. According to two officials, staff have even talked about feeding the president “suggested Twitter posts” in order to better influence his policy.
The National Security Council is composed of several hundred career civil servants (meaning they are nonpartisan) who are meant to advise Trump on foreign policy, counterterrorism efforts, and help deter nuclear attacks. A senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff, told the Times, “It’s so far a very dysfunctional NSC.”
For nonpartisan members, the situation seems especially fraught. According to the report, some advisors recently met for late night drinks to discuss erasing any sentiments on their personal social media accounts that could be interpreted as anti-Trump.
The Times report also notes that paperwork, which is “the lifeblood of the bureaucracy,” has been unpredictable since Trump came into office, with officials learning of directives via secondhand news reports. And while the NSC used to suggest policy to Obama in 3-6 page reports, the staff has now been told that they must keep it at one page, and be sure to include graphics and maps.
“The president likes maps,” an official explained.
If Sunday’s report is accurate, maps, graphics and unhinged tweets now dictate the foreign policy of the world’s greatest military power. What could possibly go wrong?