U.S. President Donald Trump’s first year in office has been defined as much as anything by his prolific use of Twitter to go around what he sees as a sometimes hostile news media and communicate directly with the American people.
The tweets, often posted from his White House bedroom or a weekend retreat, have by turns excited, perplexed and outraged his readers, while often signaling policy reversals that have forced his aides to scramble to get on board.
As the curtain comes down on that eventful year, VOA has assembled a list of the 10 most impactful tweets of his presidency to date, as measured by the number of times each was retweeted. Collectively, the tweets provide a recap of some of the highs and lows of Trump’s first year.
His presidency was less than a day old when more than 1 million people turned out for a “Women’s March” in Washington on January 21 to protest Trump’s inauguration.
Trump took to Twitter the next day to mock the protesters, and especially participating celebrities such as feminist icon Gloria Steinem, pop star Madonna and actress Scarlett Johansson. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election!” Trump tweeted. “Why didn’t these people vote? Celebs hurt cause badly.”
But just two hours later, the new president adopted a more conciliatory tone. “Peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy. Even if I don’t always agree, I recognize the rights of people to express their views.” That tweet was retweeted 81,527 times, making it the 10th most retweeted of his first year.
It was in late May that Trump upended normal diplomatic protocol in making his first overseas trip as president to Saudi Arabia, where he was feted with lavish hospitality and honors by the Saudis.
In a surprising turn for a president who had excoriated Muslims during the election campaign, Trump urged regional leaders to ally with the United States in a global fight against terrorism. He told dozens of Arab and Muslim leaders at a regional summit in Riyadh the world was “a battle between good and evil.”
Shortly after landing in Riyadh on May 20, Trump tweeted a photo of his red-carpet arrival:
With 97,922 retweets, it was his seventh most retweeted posting.
Back in Washington a little more than a week later, Trump issued what remains his most perplexing tweet to date: “Despite the constant negative press covfefe.” The never fully explained tweet prompted a wide range of theories, ranging from his having fallen asleep with his finger on the keyboard to a suggestion by a respected academic that it was some kind of “diversionary tactic.”
Asked about the cryptic message, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer replied, “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.” Pressed for clarification, the press secretary did not respond, much to the chagrin of a befuddled press corps.
Trump, however, seemed to be untroubled by the confusion his tweet had caused. Later that day, he followed up with this: “Who can figure out the true meaning of covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!” The two tweets ran up 127,507 and 85,555 retweets respectively, ranking fourth and ninth for the year.
It was on June 6 that Trump again dismayed the foreign policy mavens by unexpectedly taking a stand on a simmering dispute between Saudi Arabia and the small but wealthy Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. In a move that took experts by surprise, Riyadh and its allies had sought to isolate Qatar diplo
That might have created a dilemma for the United States, which has good relations with Qatar and maintains its largest military base in the Middle East in that country. But Trump tweeted his unambiguous approval and even seemed to take credit for the move: “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!”
The posting had 87,163 retweets, the eighth highest total of the year.
It was about four weeks later that Trump carried his feud with American news media to new heights by tweeting a doctored video that showed him tackling and punching a figure with the CNN logo pasted over its face.
Authorities at the news network, which Trump has repeatedly denounced as a source of “fake news,” were not amused by the video, which came from a professional Wrestlemania event 10 years earlier in which Trump had performed outside the wrestling ring in a fake match.
‘A sad day’
“It is a sad day when the president of the United States encourages violence against reporters,” CNN said in a formal statement.
But White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert rejected that idea. “No one would perceive that as a threat; I hope they don’t,” he told the ABC television network.
The posting was Trump’s most retweeted of the year, with a stunning 369,530 retweets.
Saudi Arabia again became the subject of one of Trump’s top tweets in early November, following a crackdown on corruption led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who had several members of the royal family placed under arrest in Riyadh’s lavish Ritz Carlton hotel.
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world, was among those arrested along with other royals, government ministers and investors. The move had analysts opining whether it was really about corruption or a power grab by the ambitious crown prince and whether it might destabilize the kingdom.
No such doubts appear to have troubled Trump, who tweeted on November 6, “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia they know exactly what they are doing….” That was his sixth-ranking tweet of the year with 98,277 retweets.
Trump’s long-running war of words with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made its way into the ranks of his top tweets on November 12, when the president took time out from a 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia to respond to an insult from the man he dubbed “Little Rocket Man”:
It became his second most retweeted posting with 272,776 retweets.
Later at a press conference in Hanoi, Trump was asked if it was possible for the two men to ever be friends. “I think anything’s a possibility,” the president replied. “Strange things happen in life. That might be a strange thing to happen but, it’s certainly a possibility.”
Trump’s proclivity for making foreign policy via Twitter continued into 2018 with a New Year’s Day tweet accusing Pakistan of sheltering terrorists who attack U.S. forces in Afghanistan and threatening to cut off U.S. aid to Pakistan.
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan with little help. No more!” he tweeted.
Just hours later, a National Security Council spokesperson announced that the United States would withhold $255 million in military aid to Pakistan pending a review of that nation’s level of cooperation in fighting terrorism.
The Trump tweet garnered 101,854 retweets, fifth most during the year.
Kim Jong Un was back in the bull’s-eye two days later for a tweet that along with the publication of the tell-all book Fire and Fury fueled a wave of speculation in Washington about Trump’s mental stability:
Senators from the opposition Democratic Party expressed dismay. “It’s embarrassing, it’s counterproductive and it’s dangerous,” said Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. And Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island told VOA, “It puts the president of the United States in the position of being a fool or deadly serious [about ordering a nuclear strike].”
Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of Trump’s Republican Party, welcomed the tweet, saying, “We finally have a president who is actually dealing with the problem at hand, instead of what we’ve seen previously, which was ignoring the problem.”
It became Trump’s third most retweeted posting of his presidency with 194,480 retweets.
Source: Voice of America