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Trump's Tweet Of Him Bodyslamming CNN Heightens Controversy


A tweet posted on President Trump's account yesterday is still reverberating in the political world. If you feel like you've heard that sentence before, you have. Controversy over the president's tweets has been a constant of his administration. NPR's Tamara Keith asks whether they're affecting his agenda.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The latest storm-stirring tweet came shortly before the regular Sunday political shows went on the air.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Oh, my God, what's going to happen?

KEITH: It was a video of Trump's 2007 "WrestleMania" cameo, though the face of the man he body slammed was replaced by the CNN logo. Much like the famous feuds of professional wrestling, President Trump has chosen a nemesis for his presidency, and it's the media or, as he calls it, the fake media. Here was President Trump Saturday night speaking at an event to honor U.S. military veterans.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The fake media is trying to silence us, but we will not let them...


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

KEITH: This came at the end of a week where the president's Twitter feed was filled with screeds against the media. And so as representatives of the Trump administration appeared on TV, they were asked about the tweets. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was on NBC's "Meet The Press" with Chuck Todd.


TOM PRICE: The challenge that I've been given is to address the health care issues. And your program, a program with the incredible history of "Meet The Press" - and that's what you want to talk about?

CHUCK TODD: I don't. Mr. Secretary, I don't.

PRICE: Let me just suggest to you that the American people want to talk about the challenge...

KEITH: Price, though, insisted the tweets weren't a distraction from Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.


PRICE: The fact of the matter is that he can do more than one thing at a time.

KEITH: For his part, Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican appearing on the same program, said he was more interested in the health care bill than the tweets which he described as not good and reprehensible.


BILL CASSIDY: Our focus cannot be on the tweet. Our focus has to be on that kitchen table family paying $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000 for their premiums, wondering how they're going to make ends meet.

KEITH: At the moment, the health care bill is still being negotiated. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the process as being like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube. Move one piece, and another one moves in the wrong direction. But what do the president's tweets mean for that legislative process largely happening out of public view?

JOHN FEEHERY: You know, I think that this is kind of an open question. Does his tweeting have a bad impact on his agenda? I don't think it does.

KEITH: John Feehery with the public affairs and lobbying firm EFB Advocacy was a longtime GOP congressional aide. He says the president hasn't shown himself to be particularly gifted in the details of the health care legislation. So if he spent more of his time talking or tweeting about health care, Feehery says it might not help the case.

FEEHERY: The most important thing from a congressional standpoint is what he signs. And you know, when the president kind of does all this crazy stuff, it does distract from the agenda. But in many ways, that could be helpful. I mean if the agenda is slashing Medicaid, you know, a little distraction might not be the worst-case scenario.

KEITH: The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 15 million people would lose Medicaid coverage over the next decade under the Senate bill, and those Medicaid cuts are one of the things giving moderate Republicans the greatest pause as they consider whether to support it. Chris Hayden, who is working to defeat the bill at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, says the tweets should make senators wonder if the president is wholeheartedly in the game on health care.

CHRIS HAYDEN: When we're talking about a bill that affects one-sixth of our economy when the president can't even, you know, spend time to really communicate why this is an important bill to pass to the American people, I think it really hurts the credibility of the bill.

KEITH: So he says keep tweeting if that makes it harder for members of the president's party to support the bill. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.