Last Christmas, when President Trump landed in Iraq on his first trip to a war zone since taking office, it wasn’t a surprise to those who were paying attention. For hours before he landed, amateur plane-watchers tracked a Boeing VC-25, the aircraft that serves as Air Force One, as it flew across Europe. After Trump had previously hinted that he’d soon fly to a war zone, many speculated that the plane was carrying him. The surest sign that Trump was onboard though was that his typically bustling Twitter account had fallen silent.
The White House wouldn’t make the same mistake this week. On Wednesday night at 10:08 p.m., Air Force One left Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington for a 13-hour flight to Afghanistan. The White House was determined to keep the previously unannounced trip secret. Trump quietly left Mar-a-Lago on Thanksgiving eve and reporters who tagged along were not allowed to reveal Trump’s location until after he was on Air Force One on his way back to the U.S.
Measures were also taken to make sure Trump’s Twitter account appeared active. At 8:21 a.m. Thanksgiving morning, @realDonaldTrump sent out an uncharacteristically subdued message. There were no attacks on Democrats and no self-adulation. Just a picture of Trump, the First Lady, and a turkey.
According to CNN and Politico, that tweet was scheduled prior to the flight to Iraq. So too were several retweets of the official White House account on Thanksgiving eve. CNN explained that the tweets were scheduled “to avoid arousing suspicions around a president who rarely goes a dozen hours without taking to social media.”
The tweets had to be scheduled because, as Politico reported, efforts to keep the trip secret included confiscating all signal-emitting devices from those on the flight to Afghanistan, including Trump himself.
To the White House’s credit, scheduling the tweets was a clever idea to avoid arousing suspicion about Trump’s whereabouts. On the other hand, it can’t be good for the president’s addiction to Twitter to be so intense that 13 hours between tweets is enough make many Americans start asking questions.