The Drudge Report, in big red letters, summed up President Trump’s announcement of a temporary end to the shutdown with three words: “NO WALL FUNDS.” Ann Coulter tweeted, “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.” Hours before the cable news personalities that the president listens to devoutly could weigh in on the deal to reopen the government, the anger at Trump began to build in the Internet enclaves that have long supported him.
The Daily Caller seemed to capture the sentiment with its headline about the deal on the homepage.
“TRUMP CAVES,” its headline read in all caps. “A serious reversal.”
There was similar frustration in the headlines of the Gateway Pundit, a Trump-aligned site known for helping to spread conspiracy theories. “TRUMP CAVES!” one headline shouted. “Ends Shutdown with NO BORDER WALL — Pelosi’s SECOND BIG WIN This Week.” That article included a YouTube video from December of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dancing.
“The White House finally caved to Democrats demands,” the Breitbart article said, “despite Trump’s repeated assertions this week that he would not do so.”
Many of Trump’s most ardent supporters on television still held out hope for victory after defeat.
The president’s online “base” is a tricky thing to define, as it has a history of at least partially turning on him when Trump the person fails to live up to Trump the meme: a chaotic, super-masculine fighter of “social justice warriors” who is also extremely good at deals. As the partial government shutdown stretched on, some also suggested that the president bowed to criticism from conservative pundits. When Democratic leaders seemed to force Trump to go back on his promise not to cave on his demand for wall funding as a condition of ending the shutdown, it was inevitable that some parts of the pro-Trump Internet would react poorly.
“Some” is the key word here, however. While Mike Cernovich, a far-right online personality, tweeted that Trump was now the “Commander-in-Soy” and that Pelosi was “alpha,” others rallied around the president. Bill Mitchell, another personality with a large following among Trump supporters, argued that the deal was actually brilliant.
“IMAGINE THIS SCENARIO: Trump agrees to reopen government for 3 weeks, then, during the SOTU after laying out his case in detail, with @SpeakerPelosi sitting behind him, declares a
#NationalEmergency to fund the wall and explains exactly where the funds come from. Glorious,” he tweeted.
“The Democrats have 3 weeks to prove if they will keep their word on border security,” former White House aide Sebastian Gorka wrote on Twitter. “And @realDonaldTrump gets to hold a State of the Union on The Wall. GENIUS.”
“We must have his back,” right-wing activist Charlie Kirk tweeted.
Hosts on Trump’s preferred network largely stood by him.
On Fox News, Jesse Watters said, “Trump lost the battle so he’s got to win the war. He’s got to get something out of an emergency declaration and if he doesn’t get something done there he has to flip the House in 2020.”
Not everyone absolved Trump of blame.
Tomi Lahren, a Fox Nation host, tweeted that Trump allowed “Nancy to walk all over him,” referring to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. “It’s President Trump, not President Pelosi. Act like it. #BuildThatWall,” she added.
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, who described himself as an “an animated, energetic supporter of this president,” conceded that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “has just whipped the president of the United States.”
“It will be perceived as such on every television monitor and screen in the country and to deny it is to escape from reality,” he said.
On his show, Fox’s Tucker Carlson left most of the opining about Trump’s shutdown deal to his guests, adding that “you know what erodes your popularity with the public? Weakness.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity laid the blame squarely on Democrats and “weak-kneed Republicans,” saying on his Friday evening show that Trump would declare a national emergency to build the proposed wall if needed in three weeks.
“Anyone out there thinking President Trump caved today, you don’t know the Donald Trump I know,” Hannity said. “He right now holds all the cards — he will secure the border one way or another.”
On pro-Trump subreddit r/The_Donald, users rallied to justify Trump’s announcement. A top post on the forum on Friday afternoon declared: “What President Trump did today was show that Democrats would rather starve government employees and watch our airlines crash to the ground rather than have meaningful border security. 3 Weeks. The Wall Is Coming!”
Others, like the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, were more concerned with another major news story on Friday: Roger Stone’s early-morning arrest by the FBI. Stone, a former adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, faces seven counts from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements and one count of witness tampering. Shortly after his release on bond, Stone called in to Infowars to discuss it.
This post has been updated.