On the morning of July 26, hours before Senate Republicans were set to vote on several bills to dismantle Obamacare that most expected would fail, President Trump fired off a series of tweets that instantaneously overshadowed the forthcoming healthcare votes.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” the president wrote at 6:04 a.m., shocking everyone from the LGBT community to his own White House staff.
Whether Trump intended to mitigate the damage of his party’s failure to repeal Obamacare, by completely changing the national conversation, may never be known for certain.
But the president has repeatedly proved he has a knack for eclipsing negative news on any given day by sending reporters in an entirely different direction.
Here are five times Trump has hammered away at his keyboard to quell criticism of himself or his administration, or to change the subject entirely:
1. Trump’s wiretapping claim
Trump’s third month in office began with a series of reports about connections between his campaign staff and Russian officials, in addition to calls for his attorney general to testify before a congressional panel about his own interactions with then-Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Kislyak. All that, and the president was still reeling from the botched rollout of his so-called travel ban in February.
Before the sun rose on March 4, Trump fired off a tweet that would dominate the news cycle for several days and divert virtually all attention away from the Russia story. The president accused his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower, where his 2016 campaign was headquartered, during the election.
“This is McCarthyism!” Trump exclaimed in a follow-up tweet.
Reporters spent the next several days demanding answers from the president and his aides. Instead of responding to questions about correspondence between Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin, then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked whether evidence existed to support the president’s allegations, why the president wanted Congress to investigate the situation, and whether Trump had confronted President Obama about his supposed surveillance.
2. NFL Protests
Senate Republicans were struggling to keep their latest healthcare bill afloat when Trump took the stage at a Sept. 22 rally in Alabama and began railing against professional football players who had been kneeling in protest during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see some of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now?’” Trump asked rally attendees.
His out-of-the-blue comments previewed a weekend tweetstorm that sparked a weekslong national debate about the state of race relations in America, leaving Republicans’ failure to pass their last-ditch healthcare fix to be swept right under the rug.
What likely began as a typo, quickly became one of Trump’s greatest mass distractions since he took office.
“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” Trump tweeted after midnight on May 31, less than 48 hours after news broke that his son-in-law Jared Kushner had discussed the creation of a back channel between Trump officials and Moscow during a meeting with Kislyak.
“I do think there ought to be a review of his security clearance,” Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” at the time, adding that the U.S. intelligence community should be “very concerned about these approaches to the Russians.”
Cue Trump’s “covfefe” tweet, which served as the perfect diversion at a time when Kushner, who also serves as a senior White House adviser, was facing tremendous scrutiny in the media. The president even penned a follow-up tweet, encouraging his supporters to “figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe.’”
As the Washington Post wrote at the time, while reflecting on other major news items that week: “Every minute spent dissecting ‘covfefe’ is a minute not spent talking about the Russia investigation or the resignation of the White House communications director or why the heck the president would want to pick a fight with Germany.”
4. Roy Moore and LaVar Ball
While most of Washington spent the past two weeks discussing the mounting allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate GOP candidate Roy Moore, Trump avoided weighing in until Tuesday. Prior to commenting on Moore’s fitness for office before he left for the Thanksgiving holiday, Trump created a temporary distraction by tweeting about the father of UCLA basketball player LiAngelo Ball.
Trump worked with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his recent overseas trip to secure the release of Ball and two of his teammates, all of whom had been arrested in Shanghai for shoplifting. Upon returning to Washington, where nearly every Republican was debating how to handle Moore if he wins election, Trump turned his attention to LiAngelo’s father LaVar, who had refused to thank the president for his son’s release.
“Shoplifiting is a very big deal in China, as it should be, but not to father LaVar,” Trump wrote in a series of tweets over the weekend. “Should have gotten his son out during my next trip to China instead.”
The president attempted to recycle the topic on Tuesday, a day after he suggested it would be better to have Moore in the Senate than a “liberal person.” Trump again went after LaVar in a series of tweets Tuesday morning, calling him a “poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair.”
5. NBC’s Broadcast license
In mid-October, NBC News reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had once referred to Trump as a “moron” during a meeting with Defense officials. The White House almost immediately decried the reporting as “fake news” and sent Tillerson out to make publicly defend the president during an impromptu State Department press conference.
However, the negative coverage continued since Tillerson refused to explicitly deny claims that he insulted the president’s intelligence. Trying to draw attention away from the embarrassing episode, Trump deferred to old habits and tore into the media.
“With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License?” he tweeted.
The president’s threat drew instant backlash from reporters, who accused him of having little regard for the First Amendment and endorsing censorship. Overnight, the discussion about Tillerson and Trump’s relationship disappeared.
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner