Donald Trump calls journalists to defend health care bill's failure

VIDEO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The New York Times and Washington Post were not President Donald Trump's favourite media, or so it seems. He has often derided them for publishing "fake news."

But, almost immediately after suffering a huge setback in Congress on Friday (March 24) on healthcare, Mr Trump called Washington Post reporter, Mr Robert Costa, and New York Times political correspondent, Ms Maggie Haberman.

In those calls, Mr Trump blamed Democrats for the Republican healthcare bill's failure, according to tweets from the two journalists. He also said Democrats would be ready to return to the matter when Obamacare "explodes".

 
 

Mr Costa posted a series of tweets about the surprise phone call while he was still talking to the president.

He then wrote a first-person piece describing the conversation for the Post's web site. He said that when his mobile phone rang, he thought it was a reader complaint because it was a blocked number. Instead it was the president, whose tone was "muted".

"Trump said he would not put the bill on the floor in the coming weeks. He is willing to wait and watch the current law continue and, in his view, encounter problems," Mr Costa wrote.

He quoted Mr Trump as saying about the Democrats: "The beauty is that they own Obamacare. So when it explodes, they come to us, and we make one beautiful deal for the people."

In her tweets, Ms Haberman said the president "did not sound mad, showed uncharacteristic discipline as he talked about who had let him down (he said Democrats)".

Later, she commented on Twitter: "Trump is not going away this weekend. He was deeply disciplined in phone interviews. The big question is what happens now when he sits in the White House residence and watches television coverage of the bill's failure."

Mr Trump made his calls to the media before House Speaker Paul Ryan held his own news conference, at which he announced that the House was pulling the bill from the floor.

The president's calls to the Post and the Times are reminiscent of the way a younger Trump called the New York City tabloids when he was going through a divorce or a financial loss, said a CNN report. By calling reporters directly, Mr Trump worked to spin the narrative to his advantage and offload blame.