Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Either Trump found himself with time on his hands yesterday afternoon or something happened that triggered this short tweetstorm:

I watched on Twitter as several people responded with the idea that this president doesn’t seem to be able to leave the 2016 campaign behind. That’s not what this was about.

For months now I’ve been saying that, when challenged or threatened, Trump’s instinctive pattern is to lie, distract and blame. That is what those tweets are designed to do—just as the White House is attempting with regards to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch by saying that she obstructed justice when she told Comey to call the Clinton email probe a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

As an aside, it might be worth noting that the targets of this pattern by Trump over the last few months have been Barack Obama, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton and Loretta Lynch—all women and/or people of color. I doubt that is an accident.

The first couple of times that Trump engaged in this pattern it worked for him. After he accused Obama of wiretapping him, the media became consumed with stories about whether or not it was true. The same thing happened when he accused Susan Rice of committing a crime by requesting the unmasking of names of his associates in intelligence reports. Either Trump is picking less appealing targets these days or the media is beginning to catch on, because it doesn’t seem to be working any more.

It is very likely that the news that Trump is a target of Mueller’s investigation is what initiated Trump’s descent into his instinctive pattern. His focus in almost all of his conversations with Comey had been an attempt to get the word out that he was not under investigation. The fact that the whole world knows that he is a target obviously strikes some deep chord of anger and hostility that we’re likely to see more of in the coming days.

Next time the president lashes out to target someone like this, notice that it is part of his pattern when he feels threatened/challenged. It is unlikely that he will ever stop doing this. But understanding that it is an attempt to lie, distract and blame helps us make it a less effective strategy.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.