WASHINGTON — A group of House Democrats is demanding that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tell them whether President Donald Trump’s frequent use of social media is putting U.S. diplomats and Americans traveling abroad at risk.
In a letter sent Wednesday to Tillerson, the 20 members of the Foreign Affairs Committee said they are extremely troubled over Trump’s retweets last week of inflammatory videos from a fringe British political group that purported to show violence being committed by Muslims.
They said the retweets represent official statements from the president and present “a serious danger” to Americans by promoting Islamophobia, stoking hatred of America and fueling the recruitment of “those who mean harm to our country and citizens.”
They want to know if the State Department contacted the White House to express concern Trump’s retweets of the videos could trigger protests at U.S. embassies. The lawmakers have asked for a briefing “on the effect of the president’s use of social media which has the potential to impact negatively the safety and security of Americans around the world,” according to the letter.
Separately, House Democrats also plan to introduce a resolution that would condemn and censure Trump for retweeting the three videos from Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of Britain First, a far-right British group whose profile was elevated by Trump’s attention.
The move triggered outrage in Britain and led Prime Minister Theresa May to criticize Trump. She said his retweets were “the wrong thing to do” and called Britain First “a hateful organization” that runs counter to “common British decency.”
The censure resolution seeks to condemn Trump “for his reckless behavior on Twitter that can have serious ramifications for Americans serving or working abroad.” The measure also says Trump and his administration should stop encouraging bigoted, nationalist and racist ideology and policies.” The resolution, however, has little chance of passage in the GOP-led House.
One of the videos that Trump retweeted falsely claims to be of a Muslim migrant beating up a Dutch boy on crutches. But the attacker was a Dutch citizen, not a migrant.
The Dutch Embassy responded to Trump’s dissemination of the video with a tweet directed to him: “Facts do matter. The perpetrator of the violent act in this video was born and raised in the Netherlands. He received and completed his sentence under Dutch law.”
Trump’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, suggested the veracity of the videos wasn’t a high priority amid concern over national security and strong borders. “Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real and that is what the president is talking about,” she said.