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From Candidate To President-Elect, How Trump's Twitter Strategy Might Change


Donald Trump has not done any press conferences since Election Day. But he's still talking to people the way he did throughout his campaign, on Twitter, to his more than 15 million followers. It's a way to bypass the media and bash it, too. Just today, Trump sent three tweets criticizing The New York Times.

I talked to BuzzFeed reporter Charlie Warzel about how Trump uses Twitter and how that might change once Trump becomes president. And Warzel says we've already seen two sides of @realDonaldTrump since the election.

CHARLIE WARZEL: He tweeted on Thursday about paid protesters in the streets being unfair to him. And then you saw another tweet just a couple of hours later that sort of said, oh, I embrace - I'm paraphrasing - but I embrace these - you know, these protests.


WARZEL: And it's what's great about our country. And that feels like it was sort of a walk-back. You know, either it was him or his staff intervening.

MCEVERS: But I wonder, too. Isn't this kind of interesting and good for the journalists who cover him and who report on him and who kind of want to get to know him? - right? - is that we get to see and read this kind of unfiltered Trump. We get a window into who he really is?

WARZEL: It's so hard to know exactly who Donald Trump is. And I think that that's what, you know, will pose a real challenge to journalists. You've seen in the past few days that he's already gone out without his press pool to dinner and sort of skirted a lot of the traditional rules of how a president behaves with the press.

This is an important connection to his unfiltered thoughts. I believe a Republican congressman last week said he needs to put down the phone and stop tweeting. And I think all journalists would hope that - selfishly - that he doesn't do that.

MCEVERS: Right. Donald Trump has also insulted a lot of people on Twitter. He's re-tweeted a white-nationalist account that praised him. I mean, how do people think about Twitter now in light of the way Trump uses it? Like, oh, well, this is just a public figure, and that's normal. And we shouldn't care. Or this is serious stuff.

WARZEL: I think it's absolutely serious. And I think that this re-tweeting of white-supremacist accounts and white-nationalist accounts was a way to sort of winkingly (ph) gesture at and amplify the message, you know, in approval of some of these accounts without ever seeing anything on his own.

And it's a very easy thing to disavow - to say, oh, I hit the button accidentally. Or - but Twitter is such a powerful way, if you're someone with 15 million followers like Donald Trump, to amplify the messages of anyone without, you know, ever having to endorse explicitly.

MCEVERS: Right. You could re-tweet someone who's got, like, 15 followers and re-tweet that to 15 million followers. And now you got something totally different.

WARZEL: And I think that that's how Donald Trump really connected with a lot of members of his base - with just simply, you know, the click of a button to say, you know, I hear you. Or I think that, you know, your voice matters, which was a real important foundational element of his campaign.

MCEVERS: So it's 2016. And, of course, there's an official presidential Twitter account, @POTUS. Do you think Donald Trump will take over this account - or he'll keep his own going?

WARZEL: There were plans before last Tuesday that president-elect, whoever that was going to be, would take over the POTUS account and that the White House was willing to surrender that. I don't think that their plans will have changed.

Whether or not Donald Trump wants to do that is obviously quite up to him. I think that there are plenty of interesting scenarios there, including - if he does take it over - what happens to the 15 million followers of @realDonaldTrump and also the, I think, 30,000 tweets that are there.


WARZEL: There's certainly reason to believe that something could happen to those tweets.

MCEVERS: Like, they'll be deleted?

WARZEL: It's certainly - I don't think you want to take anything off the table when you're dealing with Donald Trump and Twitter. And that's a very important thing that, hopefully, journalists will be mindful of because it is an interesting and public record of his positions on various issues for, you know, many years.

MCEVERS: That's BuzzFeed senior tech reporter Charlie Warzel. Thanks a lot.

WARZEL: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.