After Helping His Campaign, Trump's Tweets Cost Him In The White House

Mar 10, 2017
Originally published on March 10, 2017 7:34 pm
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President Trump's Twitter feed has been rather restrained for most of this week. Today he wrote that he was honored to meet this year's Senate youth delegates. He is still dealing with fallout, though, from incendiary tweets he unleashed nearly a week ago. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Donald Trump broke all the rules to become president. As he once said, I could stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any votes. But the outsider behavior that helped him win the White House is causing him problems now that he's in the White House and trying to pass big pieces of legislation through Congress.

On Saturday morning, without any evidence, Trump tweeted this. (Reading) terrible - just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower. Trump's friend Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative media company, saw Trump right after he tweeted.

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY: I think he feels that Barack Obama and or his administration don't like him and they want to make life difficult for him.

LIASSON: This is the deep state opposition that his supporters warn about - what they see as a shadowy network of liberal civil servants determined to undermine the new president. And Trump has some legitimate complaints. The government, including his White House, is leaking like a sieve. But accusing the former president of a felony - that's a different order of magnitude. Trump himself hasn't presented any evidence for his claim. Neither has his staff or members of Congress or any of the relevant agencies. Christopher Ruddy...

RUDDY: So I happen to be a friend of the president's, but I would like to see the evidence he has as much as you would. I think the Twitter thing is going to have to be re-examined, and I think they definitely are going to have to establish a process by which some of these tweets go out.

LIASSON: That's not so easy, says former Bush White House aide Pete Wehner.

PETE WEHNER: Everyone who knows him, who is around him, who is rooting for him, from his aides to Capitol Hill Republicans to everybody else cringes at his erratic behavior. We know that his aides are trying to stop it, but he's uncontainable and uncontrollable. And it's hurting him. It's hurting him with the American public. It's hurting him with Hill Republicans. It's undermining confidence in his own staff.

LIASSON: And last Saturday's tweet was an attack on the credibility of the U.S. government itself, which Trump supposedly represents. John Feehery is a Republican strategist and a former top Hill aide.

JOHN FEEHERY: If you make serious allegations, and you don't have serious proof, people don't take you seriously. And that's bad for any president. That being said, you know, he did change the conversation from Russia to, you know, wiretapping, which that's the one thing that Trump is really a master at, and that's changing the conversation.

LIASSON: This week, the conversation turned to health care, and Donald Trump was no longer the outsider. He was the insider, pushing Paul Ryan's Obamacare replacement plan - the ultimate GOP establishment project.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor. This will be a plan where you can choose your plan. And you know what the plan is. This is the plan. And we're going to have a tremendous - I think we're going to have a tremendous success. It's a complicated process, but actually it's very simple. It's called good health care.

LIASSON: Explaining what that means isn't Trump's only problem. He also has to convince conservative members of the Freedom Caucus in the House to support the health care bill. To that end, he needs help from his base, some of the same people who find it easy to believe conspiracy theories like Barack Obama was born in Kenya or wiretapped Donald Trump's phones. John Feehery...

FEEHERY: They love the fact that he's an outsider. They love the fact that he says wild and crazy things. And they're the ones who, you know, he needs to mobilize to get, you know, the Freedom Caucus - get them on his side. And I think some of the stuff he says is just kind of impulsive and kind of nuts. But I think some of these things also do serve a purpose and has worked pretty well for him. And I hate to say that, but it's true.

LIASSON: Working pretty well for him but at a cost. Trump's profile got a lot lower this week as the White House went to great lengths to keep him from interacting with the press - trying to avoid answering questions about Russian involvement in the campaign and wiretaps, two story lines the president himself fueled with his Twitter feed. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.