Democrats' fault, Trump says in calls to media

US President Donald Trump speaks about the health care overhaul bill in the Oval Office of the White House.
US President Donald Trump speaks about the health care overhaul bill in the Oval Office of the White House.PHOTO: NYT

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 right after suffering a huge setback in Congress on Friday on healthcare, Mr Trump called Post reporter Robert Costa and NYTimes political correspondent Maggie Haberman. In those calls, he 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 call while he was still talking to Mr Trump. He then wrote a first-person piece describing the conversation for the Post's website. He said when his mobile phone rang, he thought it was a reader complaint because it was a blocked number. Instead it was Mr Trump, 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... 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.

The President's calls to the Post and NYTimes are reminiscent of the way a younger Mr 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 26, 2017, with the headline 'Democrats' fault, Trump says in calls to media'. Print Edition | Subscribe