Trump asks secretary of state to investigate foreign ally after watching Tucker Carlson's Fox News segment

Trump tweets command to secretary of state
(Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Forget for a moment that President Trump is using his Twitter platform to highlight the struggles of white farmers in South Africa ("Translation: Make Apartheid Great Again #MAGA," as one wag on Twitter put it), and marvel that the president of the United States asked the U.S. secretary of state on Wednesday night to devote his energies to investigating something he saw on Tucker Carlson's Fox News show.

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Trump could have called up Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and asked him about South African farm policy in private, of course, or asked the CIA or U.S. AID or any number of agencies that report to him if Carlson's segment was accurate and, if so, what the U.S. is already doing about it. And he might have done that, too, theoretically. But probably not.

"Will Trump try anything in the foreign policy realm to distract from his legal woes?" Daniel Drezner asked at The Washington Post on Wednesday morning, explaining why "wag the dog" tactics are rarely used by normal presidents. "Trump being an anomalous type of leader would probably mean more anomalous types of diversionary foreign policy," he said, suggesting that Trump might try to change the conversation away from Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort's federal criminal convictions with "a ratcheting up of the trade wars with our European allies, more summitry with enduring rival heads of state, and a further pushing of foreign policies that polarize at home." So far, no jacked-up tariffs on Britain or summit with Iran's Ali Khamenei, but Drezner can at least check "white nationalist talking points about 'white genocide'" off his list.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.