January 1, 2020
On the evening of July 10, 2017, staffers at the U.S. embassy in Brussels—the official office of the ambassador to the European Union—received an odd call from the seventh floor of the State Department back in Washington, D.C., The Daily Beast reports.
The office of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was irate. Someone in Brussels with access to the mission’s Twitter account had liked the wrong tweet. It had set off alarm bells inside the Beltway.
That week, Trump had drawn criticism for his decision to let his daughter, Ivanka, fill his seat at the G-20 meeting of top economic powers in Hamburg, Germany, The Daily Beast notes.
After days of the pile-on, Trump took to Twitter on the morning of July 10 to claim his decision to have Ivanka represent the United States at the G-20 was “very standard” and that Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany agreed.
However—no more than 15 minutes later—he switched his tone, and began attacking Clinton, as well as the press. Clinton shot back: “It would never have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me. Were you giving our country away? Hoping not.”
And according to an exclusive report by the news outlet, that single “like” from within the administration kickstarted a weeks-long investigation, prompted by the secretary’s office, into exactly whom at the Brussels mission had access to the Twitter account and had hit “like” on Clinton’s tweet.
At least ten people were interviewed about whether they, as administrators of the account, had mistakenly or deliberately pressed the “like” button. All of them denied it, sources told The Daily Beast.
One individual familiar with the exchanges said the secretary of state’s top managers in Washington “wanted blood” and called Brussels numerous times demanding the name of the culprit.
U.S. officials in Belgium were never able to give Tillerson’s office a name and soon after, the embassy restructured the Twitter account and limited access to just two individuals.
The concern from the secretary’s office over social-media messaging continued after Tillerson and into the era of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, two U.S. officials at American embassies overseas told the news outlet.
The micromanaging is still causing headaches for staffers and officials at top American outposts who are trying to navigate the task of pleasing both the State Department and the White House simultaneously—a mission that at times requires two completely different strategies, those sources said.
It is unclear if Trump—who is famously thin-skinned about criticism or even mean tweets from prominent critics—himself was aware of this intra-administration kerfuffle over the Clinton tweet, but some of his lieutenants certainly were.
One former aide commented, “[The Chelsea Clinton incident] was another little thing that fueled suspicions [within the administration] and reminded…officials in the White House that there were a lot of people … who clearly hated Donald Trump.”
However, amid all the paranoia that surface after the exchange, one inescapable truth surfaced: It would hardly be the only time—and it certainly will not be the last—when the State Department bends itself out of shape over anti-Trump activity on Twitter.
Research contact: @thedailybeast