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Twitter Permanently Suspends President Trump's Account Ahead Of Inauguration Day

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Donald Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter. After four years of firings, announcements and insults by a presidential tweet, the company said it made the decision, quote, "due to the risk of further incitement of violence." Further incitement, it said, like what preceded Wednesday's shocking insurrection at the Capitol. White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been following this.

Tam, thanks so much for being with us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

SIMON: I'm inclined to say what prompted this ban, but I mean, in a funny way, what didn't?

KEITH: Right. According to Factbase, which is a site that tracks him, by the time Trump's account was suspended, nearly 500 of his tweets had been flagged by Twitter, mostly related to election misinformation. And that came after four years of riling up his supporters to hate Democrats, the media, anyone who wasn't loyal to him. Remember; there were those modified videos that he tweeted of him wrestling the CNN logo or shooting up a room full of his opponents. You know, all of that rhetoric reached a boiling point Wednesday when pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. His account was locked Wednesday, and Twitter warned that it would be suspended if he further broke the rules. But then he tweeted again yesterday once it was unlocked. And what he tweeted was that those who voted for him will continue to have a voice and that he would not be attending Joe Biden's inauguration. The company said those tweets are likely to further incite violence, so it made the suspension permanent.

SIMON: And what has the reaction been from the president and his supporters?

KEITH: Well, after the ban last night, Trump tried to get around it. He tweeted from the @POTUS account, then a campaign account, a campaign adviser's account. It was like whack-a-mole, and Twitter took them all down. The White House then also sent the statement via the White House press pool, you know, like, the old-fashioned way. In it, Trump complained of being silenced and said he and his supporters are negotiating with other sites and looking into building their own platform. I was listening to conservative talk radio on my way home from the White House last night. And Mark Levin, who is an ally of the president's, was encouraging everyone to delete Twitter and Facebook and move to Parler, which is another platform with conservative backing and a lot less moderation. But that platform is now getting pressure from Google and Apple.

SIMON: Yeah. Tam, we have all reported on countless tweets over the past four years from Donald Trump. How big a blow is this ban to his determination to remain a huge public figure post-presidency?

KEITH: Yeah, it has been essential to how he built his support, how he got his message directly to the people, including firing people, as we said before, commanding loyalty, even, you know, introducing or tanking legislation. Here's what he said about it on Fox in 2013.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've destroyed bills that were going to be voted on that were bad, and I've gotten bills passed that were good by using Twitter. And Twitter is really a typewriter for me. It's really not Twitter. It's - Twitter goes on television. You know, if they have breaking news, I'll tweet. I'll say, watch this. Boom.

KEITH: And then breaking news - he tweeted. For posterity, at the time his account was banned, he had sent 57,067 tweets. Twitter was his voice, all-caps, ending with an exclamation point.

SIMON: Democrats introduced an impeachment motion, I guess, on Monday, barring, they say, a resignation by the president. We don't expect a resignation, do we?

KEITH: We don't. He's hanging on as far as we know. And the real question is, what does his political future look like, especially if he doesn't have his megaphone and if he's just the man behind the curtain?

SIMON: NPR's Tamara Keith, thanks so much for being with us.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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