One of the hallmarks of a totalitarian government is the suppression of free expression and the elimination of any dissent in the ranks of state employees through punitive means.
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Anyone who believes that the accusations of authoritarian intent in the Trump administration by those on the left are wildly exaggerated partisan attacks with no basis in reality would do well to read the article posted on The Daily Beast that details the extraordinary lengths that the administration went to try to discover who among them liked a tweet posted by Chelsea Clinton.
The story begins back in July of 2017 when the American embassy for the Brussels headquarters of the European Union received an angry phone call from the office of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson inquiring about who was responsible for liking a Twitter post directed at Donald Trump by Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter Chelsea.
The tweet over which Tillerson’s office was up in arms came in the context of that week’s scandal du jour — the unelected First Daughter Ivanka Trump’s taking her father’s seat at the table at the G-20 meetings then taking place — an occurrence that raised much public criticism of the nepotism and the delegation of a critically important diplomatic role to an unqualified family member that the president’s decision entailed.
Never one to broach criticism quietly, Trump went on the attack against those who dared to question his judgment, calling his request for Ivanka to hold his seat — as if someone else was going to sit in it and pretend to represent the United States — “very standard” and claiming that German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with him.
When I left Conference Room for short meetings with Japan and other countries, I asked Ivanka to hold seat. Very standard. Angela M agrees!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
Typically for Trump, he couldn’t restrict himself to a single tweet after stewing over the assault on the wisdom of his decision to place his daughter at the table reserved for the world’s top leaders. His next tweet on the subject speculated on what would have happened if Hillary Clinton had done something similar.
If Chelsea Clinton were asked to hold the seat for her mother,as her mother gave our country away, the Fake News would say CHELSEA FOR PRES!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2017
The president’s attacks on her mother — insinuating that Hillary Clinton would be giving “our country away” to foreign rivals in Trump’s nationalistic parlance — inspired Chelsea Clinton to tweet back a probing reply that posed a pointed question to the man well known for projecting his own misdeeds upon his opponents.
Good morning Mr. President. It would never have occurred to my mother or my father to ask me. Were you giving our country away? Hoping not. https://t.co/4ODjWZUp0c
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) July 10, 2017
Chelsea’s response went viral on Twitter, garnering over half a million likes including one attributed to the account for the U.S. diplomatic mission to the European Union.
According to The Daily Beast:
“That kickstarted a weeks-long investigation, prompted by the secretary’s office, into who exactly at the Brussels mission had access to the Twitter account and hit “Like” on Clinton’s tweet, according to two former U.S. officials,” the publication wrote.
“At least 10 people were interviewed about whether they, as administrators of the account, had mistakenly or deliberately pressed the “Like” button. All of them denied any wrongdoing, those sources said. 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,” The Daily Beast continued.
The attempts to link the like to a particular individual bore no fruit, and the State Department made the decision to restrict future access to the embassy’s Twitter feed to just two senior officials.
The entire incident, however, highlighted the dysfunction and lack of communication between the White House and the State Department, a situation that emphasizes the difficulty the department has had in trying to both serve as an effective agent of American diplomacy and as a representative of Donald Trump’s own personal political objectives.
“There were definitely times [during the Tillerson era] where ambassadors would complain about a complete lack of information flow between the White House and State, and that they would be in the dark about what they were supposed to say, or even put on Twitter,” The Daily Beast quotes a senior veteran of the administration as saying.
Apparently, the replacement of Tillerson as Secretary of State with Mike Pompeo has not significantly changed the dynamic between the diplomatic corps and the White House, according to two overseas U.S. officials at American embassies.
The “Chelsea Clinton thing,” as West Wing staffers dubbed the incident, provided ample fodder for the notoriously back-stabbing insider power-jockeying in the White House.
“’During that first year, people were constantly trying to get other people fired; some even compiled lists of people to fire that they would show, or try to show, to the president,’ said one of the ex-officials,” according to The Daily Beast. “'[The Chelsea Clinton incident] was another little thing that fueled suspicions and reminded…officials in the White House that there were a lot of people working in the administration who clearly hated Donald Trump.’”
Given the administration’s apparent willingness to conduct the type of politically motivated witch hunts that the president is constantly accusing his opponents of holding in their investigations of his deviant presidential behavior, there are even more people outside of the administration who hold the exact same opinion about Donald Trump.
Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter.