State Department spokesperson R.C. Hammond spends his days advancing President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. But just over a year ago Hammond was tweeting a different tune about Trump, urging followers not to vote for him and retweeting concerns about national security and encryption should Trump become the president.
In the spring of 2016, Hammond, who has previously worked as Newt Gingrich’s press secretary, was tweeting “Is Super Tuesday the day the music died” with the hashtags “#vote #NotTrump”, encouraging followers to watch an “anti-Trump rant” from HBO Host John Oliver and creating a Twitter poll asking followers whether Trump’s nomination would mean “Revolution”, “Armageddon” or “Headed for Canada.”
In March, Hammond retweeted American Enterprise Institute fellow James Pethokoukis who wrote "Idea of Trump in charge of US national security apparatus sure makes me think a lot more about encryption!”
In a tweet during a Republican primary debate, Hammond said he “enjoyed Ted [Cruz] talking to Donald like he is a child having a tantrum.”
Hammond isn’t the first member of Trump’s administration who expressed skepticism of the then-candidate. United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley, for example, said before the South Carolina primary in 2016 that Trump was "everything a governor doesn’t want in a president” and in 2015 said Americans want a calm and collected leader, not one who blows up at any criticism, because otherwise “we would really have a world war if that happens.”
When asked if his views on Trump has changed and why, Hammond said via email "I had questions, but by Election Day the candidate won my vote.”
Hammond’s tweets, first reported by The Daily Caller on Monday, did not appear to worry the White House, which tapped him to help with the transition of Secretary of Defense James Mattis before he moved over to the State Department.
The White House did not respond to questions about Hammond’s tweets.
While he appears to have the support of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Hammond, who joined Tillerson at the State Department in January with the title of senior adviser for public affairs, has gotten off to a rocky start with the State Department press corps. Several reporters have complained about his conduct with them, pointing to unnecessarily rude or hostile interactions.
It’s not a new allegation for Hammond. During the 2012 primary campaign, while he was working for Gingrich, Hammond was infamous for his irascible behavior and jostling with the traveling press.
But now that he’s an official State Department representative, reporters are sounding the alarm over his aggressive style. Correspondents, speaking on background, say that while the State Department press corps has dealt with prickly spokespeople in the past, dealing with Hammond has been particularly difficult.
CNN Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Michelle Kosinski publicly aired those complaints in a Facebook post last month, when she related an incident in which Hammond demanded that she reveal her sources. After she declined, Kosinski said, Hammond made it personal and said she was losing her credibility, and threatened that he would make sure no one at the State Department would speak to her ever again.
When Kosinski told Hammond he didn’t respond to an email from her, she said he told her it was because "WE don’t think you’re smart enough to HANDLE OUR information!!!!” (Emphasis hers.)
Asked about these complaints, Hammond replied: "For every complaint there are a few compliments.”
The correspondents have also tensions with Hammond have been “amplified” because of the lack of regular daily briefings. The department recently hired former Fox anchor Heather Nauert as the official spokesperson to handle daily briefings. She is having her first on-camera briefing at the State Department on Tuesday afternoon.