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Trump Tweets About Christmas, Tax Overhaul, FBI's Andrew McCabe


President Trump is in Florida today celebrating the Christmas holiday. Yesterday, he and the first lady were speaking to kids on the phone. This is part of an annual tradition in which NORAD, part of the military, tracks Santa's journey. Even as the president caught the Christmas spirit, Washington politics were very much on his mind. He has been on Twitter tweeting about the tax overhaul bill, also tweeting about FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and also tweeting about Christmas.

NPR's Tamara Keith is on the line with us. Hey, Tam.


GREENE: OK, so Trump was on Twitter last night saying that people are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. What does he mean?

KEITH: Well, President Trump campaigned on this, in fact. When he was a candidate, he said, when I'm president of the United States, people are going to say Merry Christmas again. No more of this happy holidays business, saying that, you know, happy holidays is just political correctness run amok. It was very much a theme, especially as he was talking to Christian groups. And he brought this up in addition to that 10 p.m. tweet before he went off to Christmas Eve services. He also brought it up in a teleconference yesterday with troops.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I just wanted to wish everybody a very, very Merry Christmas. We say Christmas again very proudly, very very, Merry Christmas. We're going to have a great year. It's going to be an incredible year.

GREENE: Did Trump save Christmas, Tam? Or, I mean, did Christmas ever really go away?

KEITH: No. Merry Christmas never went away. Merry Christmas has always been there mixed in with happy holidays occasionally. And just as an example of that, I went back to some of the holiday Christmas messages from the Obamas. And 2016, this is how President Obama's Christmas greeting to America started.


BARACK OBAMA: Merry Christmas, everybody. One of the best parts of the holiday season is spending time with the special people in your life.

GREENE: I love you going back to old archival tape as part of your reporting. That's wonderful. That's...

KEITH: He also said it in 2008.

GREENE: Oh, he did? OK. Well, there you go. Well, let's turn to the FBI deputy director, Andrew McCabe, who is again a target of President Trump in his tweeting. Remind us who he is and why.

KEITH: So McCabe is the deputy director of the FBI. And he in that role had a very important role in overseeing the investigations into both Hillary Clinton's email server and also the early stages of the Russia investigation. And President Trump spent a good part of this weekend going after him on Twitter in part because of something that President Trump has actually been going after him for since - let's go back to the archives again - October 2016, when he first started talking about McCabe on the campaign trail.

His complaint with McCabe is that in 2015, before McCabe was deputy director of the FBI, McCabe's wife ran for the state Senate in Virginia as a Democrat and got substantial campaign donations from organizations linked to the state's Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, who is close to Hillary Clinton.

So that is the connection. Trump says that that is a conflict of interest. And he's been pointing that out, especially in recent days. McCabe did not become deputy director of the FBI until after his wife had lost that race.

GREENE: This is all part of what we've been seeing coming from the president and his allies, though, suggesting political bias, I mean, in the Justice Department and the FBI. I mean, it's - this is all sort of part and parcel with that.

KEITH: This is absolutely part of that, President Trump saying and tweeting things about the FBI being in tatters even as he has now his own director in there. And that director has not gotten rid of Andrew McCabe. You know, the director comes in. He can replace people. He did not immediately replace McCabe with his own folks.

GREENE: And if you're the FBI, how are they responding to, you know, this pointed criticism from the president of the United States?

KEITH: My colleagues who cover the Justice Department say that there is some frustration that, you know, this is a law enforcement agency that's supposed to be sort of separate from politics and yet that has been very much wrapped up into politics because the president keeps roping them into it. And there's some concern that if McCabe ends up retiring next year, early next year as he's expected to do, that it could be seen as bowing to political pressure from the president.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joining us on this Christmas morning. Tam, thanks. We appreciate it.

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

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.