This Week In Politics: Presidential Tweet Firestorm

Jul 3, 2017
Originally published on July 3, 2017 8:42 am
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

You never know what you might see on President Trump's Twitter feed. And this weekend was no exception. President Trump has drawn criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for tweeting out a video of himself body-slamming someone that had a CNN logo superimposed over his head. This is a doctored video of a 2007 appearance that Donald Trump made on WWE's WrestleMania. Critics say the tweet promotes violence against the media, but the president does have his defenders. On ABC's "This Week," we heard Thomas Bossert, the homeland security adviser.

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THOMAS BOSSERT: There's a lot of cable-news shows that reach directly into hundreds of thousands of viewers. And they're really not always very fair to the president. So I'm pretty proud of the president for developing a Twitter and a social media platform where he can talk directly to the American people.

MARTIN: NPR's congressional reporter Scott Detrow's here to talk about this and how it might be affecting the president's agenda. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So things like this can sometimes be pegged to a specific story or a line of coverage or a news personality. And by things like this, I mean presidential attacks on the media.

DETROW: Yes.

MARTIN: What provoked this latest Twitter attack on CNN - anything in particular?

DETROW: Well, criticizing the media has been a mainstay for the president, but, even for him, it's really been amplified over the past week or so. President Trump has returned repeatedly to the fact that three CNN reporters recently resigned because of a story that was retracted. But it really goes beyond that. Here he is on Saturday night. This is at an event that was pegged toward honoring veterans.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I'm president, and they're not.

DETROW: And that's days after a graphic - in many people's minds, sexist - attack on a MSNBC host. You know, Trump's approval rating is low. His big-picture agenda is stalled. It seems like he's venting frustration here but also perhaps undermining the messenger that's reporting on all those facts.

MARTIN: Yeah, which could be the ultimate strategy.

DETROW: Right.

MARTIN: So let's talk about how this might be affecting his legislative agenda. Members of Congress are at home this week, and they are going to be hearing from voters about the Senate health care bill. Does this latest Trump controversy help or hurt them in environments like this?

DETROW: I think there's clearly a growing frustration. You go to the very vocal response from many high-profile members of the Republican caucus and the Senate, criticizing Trump for those MSNBC tweets earlier last week. But it goes beyond the controversies of the day. It also gets into the policy curveballs that often appear in his Twitter feed.

You know, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is working really hard to cobble together Republicans who have big disagreements on this Senate health care bill. He's trying to get that repeal through. And President Trump comes out Friday and says, why don't we just repeal the whole thing and go and replace it later? - not the strategy at all. It was interesting. McConnell raised a lot of eyebrows over the weekend at a Republican event in Kentucky. He said, it's not easy making America great again, is it?

MARTIN: (Laughter) Could read between the lines there. So - and Mitch McConnell himself has said he's not a fan of the president's tweets - doesn't like them, thinks he should stop doing it. And we regularly hear statements from people who support Trump, who like him. He clearly does not care about that feedback, though.

DETROW: That's right. He views this as a unique skill that he has of getting around the gatekeepers - you know, you can argue people like us, the people who take what he says and put it into reports - in delivering his message and also driving the news conversation day after day with just one tweet. Go back to that line that we heard him a moment ago, saying that he's president.

MARTIN: Yeah.

DETROW: I think you have to...

MARTIN: And we're not.

DETROW: And we're not. No, that is true. But I think that's a good way to view this because, in Trump's mind, he did all of these things - often outrageous, outside-the-box tweets that shocked people over and over again. He picked fights. He picked feuds. And he won. He lives in the White House now. In his mind, that is a validation of that strategy. This works for him.

MARTIN: Let's talk about a new poll that's out. This is an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. And the question was what voters think about civility in our country since the election last year. What did the poll reveal, Scott?

DETROW: This poll was taken before this latest twist, but I think there's still kind of a trend line going on here. And it might not be surprising to hear that 7 in 10 respondents feel like the level of civility in the country - in the national conversation - has gone down since President Trump was elected. What's interesting is that that crosses party lines. You have about 80 percent of the Democrats the poll talked to feel that way but also about 65 percent of the Republicans who responded to the poll. So there's interesting consistency. Democrats, Republicans and independents all feel like the level of civility has dropped.

MARTIN: All right. So in the midst of all the tweet storms, the president still has work to do. He's getting on an airplane, going abroad again. He's going to Europe. He's going back.

DETROW: Yeah, this is just his second overseas trip. He leaves Wednesday. He's going to Poland and Germany. And this is a pretty high-stakes trip. The G20 summit is coming up, and there's going to be a lot of meetings with other heads of state. This is his first face-to-face conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin - in addition to the ongoing questions about Russian electoral interference - big issues about Syria to work out. He's also meeting with Angela Merkel. That's a relationship that's gotten pretty intense.

MARTIN: Very intense, yes. NPR's Scott Detrow, thanks so much.

DETROW: Thank you.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Amazing that's the first time they will meet, given the amount of time they've spent together on the global stage. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.