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Trump Responds To Criticism Of His Mental State


President Trump has spent the morning with Republican congressional leaders at Camp David. And they have just appeared together before reporters - Mr. Trump taking questions on a wide range of matters that range from how he sees his achievements of the past year to his own mental health. NPR's Tamara Keith joins us now. Tam, thanks very much for being with us.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Glad to be with you.

SIMON: The president had a lot to say today, on Twitter and in person, about his mental health. And this all comes from the Wolff book, doesn't it?

KEITH: It does. So that book, "Fire and Fury," calls into question the president's mental health or mental stability. And there was actually a Fox News segment about that that roughly coincides, time-wise, with a series of tweets from the president, where he says, actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.

He ends this sort of long tweet series by saying, I think that would qualify as not smart but genius - and a very stable genius, at that. So at this press conference, he was asked, why were you tweeting about your mental state this morning when, you know, you're doing this retreat, and you're talking about policy? Why tweet about your mental state? Here was his response.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I went to the best colleges for college. I went to a - I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out and made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and, for 10 years, was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard, ran for president one time and won.

KEITH: So this would not be the first time the president has talked about going to the best college. He has a very high regard for his intelligence and actually talks about it and tweets about it on a not-infrequent basis.

SIMON: Yeah. A lot of people have pointed out, I don't believe Bill Clinton ever once said, and, by the way, I was a Rhodes Scholar, right?

KEITH: (Laughter) I don't - I can't 100 percent fact check that, though we do all know that he was a Rhodes Scholar.

SIMON: Yeah. Mr. Trump also addressed the latest developments in the Russia investigation, specifically reports in The New York Times that his staff was pushing hard to get Attorney General Sessions to not recuse himself with that investigation. What did the president say?

KEITH: Well, he didn't totally deny everything. He did say that there were some things that were wrong in the New York Times story. And then he also said, everything I've done is 100 percent proper. That is what I do - is I do things proper. And he also said, as he has repeatedly, that there has been no collusion and has been no crime and that his team is cooperating with the Mueller investigation.

SIMON: Let me ask on policy because the president was meeting with congressional leaders to try and settle on some kind of policy roadmap for the year ahead. Any news on that front?

KEITH: Yeah. I think there was. The president had been, in the later part of last year, frequently saying, once we get done with taxes, we're moving on to welfare reform. It was never 100 percent clear what that was, but I think the idea was to try to make it tougher for people to get means-tested aid programs like food stamps or welfare - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

He is now backing away from that and saying, well, whatever we do, it's going to have to be bipartisan this year. It seems as though he's probably been talking, as we know, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said, just given the sheer numbers of Republicans in the Senate, anything that Congress does this year will have to be bipartisan.

SIMON: And any indication that the president gave on what his involvement will be in the 2018 elections?

KEITH: Yes. So he says that he plans to be very involved, that he wants to campaign for candidates. But the big question was whether he was going to campaign for challengers to Republicans or only for incumbents. And he made it pretty clear in this press conference that he is going to back Republican incumbents. That is a rebuke of his former aide Steve Bannon in a week when he has been rebuking him left and right, calling him sloppy Steve.

SIMON: NPR's Tamara Keith, thanks so much.

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.