Executive Time: How Trump's Fox habit upends bipartisan negotiations

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Welcome to Executive Time, a recurring feature in which Media Matters senior fellow Matt Gertz explores the intersection between President Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and the hours of cable news he reportedly consumes daily, with a special focus on his favorite morning program, Fox & Friends. You can follow Matt’s work on Twitter @mattgertz and see previous installments in this series here.

Days Trump appeared to live-tweet cable news since our last Executive Time update (1/11): Four (three editions of Fox & Friends, one edition of Fox & Friends Weekend).

Tweets since our last Executive Time update apparently resulting from live-tweeting cable news: 14 (11 from Fox & Friends, three from the Sunday edition of Fox & Friends Weekend).

Republicans are slouching toward a government shutdown, unable to muster enough support within their House and Senate majorities to keep the government open and unwilling to compromise with Democrats who won’t surrender their votes if the spending bill doesn’t renew the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that the president terminated last year.

This would be a tough position requiring delicate action for a competent leader, and we don’t have one. President Donald Trump was reportedly on board with a bipartisan immigration deal last week that would have kept the government open, only to reverse course later the same day in a meeting with legislators in which he made racist comments. Ever since, he has been using his Twitter feed to pre-emptively blame Democrats for any shutdown and lie about what will happen if the government isn’t funded.

By this morning, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a Republican senator who had spent months demeaning himself to cultivate the president in hopes of getting him to support bipartisan immigration reform, had had enough: “We don’t have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with,” he told The Washington Post.

Trump’s racism, ignorance, and unwillingness to compromise -- all fundamental parts of his makeup -- are at the heart of the dispute. But the president’s constant wallowing in the arguments and rhetoric of Fox News are certainly not helping the effort.

The hosts and guests of Fox & Friends -- the president’s favorite program, which he frequently begins his mornings by live-tweeting -- have been slamming any potential budget deal that includes relief for DACA recipients. On Tuesday, co-host Steve Doocy said that the bipartisan immigration deal was a bad deal for Trump because it gives Democrats “everything they want.”

Other figures on the show have claimed there’s no need for urgency around DACA, suggesting that a recent judicial ruling means recipients will be protected into the summer.

Trump stalwarts like Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Jeanine Pirro have also used their shows to undermine any immigration deal that doesn’t involve Trump getting everything he wants.

The commentary serves to reinforce the president’s general unwillingness to compromise, and he is obviously getting the message, at times appearing to live-tweet Fox segments this week that criticize the immigration deal.

This wouldn’t be the first time Fox’s on-air talent has thrown legislative efforts into chaos during the Trump presidency. Trump reportedly called House Speaker Paul Ryan and threatened to veto a previous omnibus spending bill after seeing a Fox & Friends segment “questioning the spending bill and calling it wasteful.” A deal between Trump and congressional Democratic leaders to protect the Dreamers reportedly fell apart last year after Hannity weighed in. And just last week, House passage of surveillance legislation was jeopardized after the president live-tweeted a Fox & Friends segment criticizing the bill.

While Trump’s avid viewership has made the Fox-GOP feedback loop much tighter, the network has long played a role in styming bipartisan legislative efforts by attacking them from the right. In 2010, Graham warned senators he was working with on bipartisan climate change legislation that they needed to get as close to a deal as they could “before Fox News got wind of the fact that this was a serious process," saying that he would not be able to stand the countervailing pressure the conservative network could create among the viewers in his state.

Seven years later, the president of the United States is one of the network’s most fervent viewers, seeming to put bipartisan deals utterly out of reach.   

The president is live-tweeting

Here are the Trump tweets since our last update which I am reasonably confident are the result of the president directly responding to cable news programs he had been watching.

January 12. Six Fox & Friends tweets.

January 14. Three Fox & Friends Weekend live-tweets.

January 16. Four Fox & Friends live-tweets.

January 17. One Fox & Friends live-tweet.