Reflecting on Trump’s 4 years as president through his tweets

The president used Twitter to insult and spread conspiracies, to amplify fringe voices, to announce he had COVID-19 and, finally, to encourage insurrectionists before he was deplatformed.
9:57 | 01/20/21

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Transcript for Reflecting on Trump’s 4 years as president through his tweets
social media. When a mob of trump supporters violently attacked the U.S. Capitol, the repercussions, swift and significant. The president impeached again. Nearly 150 insurrectionists arrested. And one stunning consequence, the silencing of Donald Trump's Twitter presidency. The riders themselves saying they were whipped into a frenzy after being fed lies about a rigged election. They rigged it like they've never rigged an election before. Reporter: On the day of attack, instead of condemning the violence, the president tweeting more lies about a landslide election victory so unceremoniously stripped away, referring to them as great patriots. His Twitter account a steady drumbeat of lies that he, and not Joe Biden, won the presidency. Twitter fueled the rage, the suspicion, the righteousness, and the lie that Donald Trump won the election. It was absolutely crucial he kept encourang them. His followers, especially the most extremes ones of his followers, followed every tweet like it was scripture. By continuing to retweet the lies, by continuing to tell people the election was stolen, what he is doing is making sure that even though he won't be in the white house, that many of his supporters will not support or view president Biden as a legitimate president. Reporter: For months, Twitter flagged some of the president's tweets as misleading. After the capitol riots, citing risk of further violence, they banned him for life. When Donald Trump was banned for Twitter, the word everyone tweeted to me was "Gutted." It ripped his heart out. He wanted to see how many people were retweeting, liking, that's what he loved. Even if it was somebody attacking him for the tweet, he didn't care, he liked to churn up the controversy. Reporter: It was a bully pulpit that seemed a perfect fit for this president. I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera. I think it helped me win all of these races. Let me tell you about Twitter. I think maybe I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Twitter. If we had a fair press in this country, I would do that in a heartbeat. There's nothing I'd rather do than get rid of my whole Twitter account. Reporter: His mastery of social media revolutionized and some argued degraded presidential communications. Trump tweeted more than 15,000 times as president to his 88 million followers, while he was quick to tweet out accomplishments like stock market rallies and supreme court nominees, he never hesitated to use it to fire cabinet secretaries, rail against his enemies, and spew lies far and wide. There was perhaps no bigger lie than his claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Do you believe president trump's tweets undermined confidence in the democratic process? There's no question in my mind that the president is spinning the big lie. The big lie that this was not a free and fair election, that it was a stolen election, that it was a rigged election. This is doing great, great harm, great danger to our democracy. Reporter: Chris Krebs is the former chief of cybersecurity at the department of homeland how do you feel, looking in the rear-view mirror at the American election of 2020? I know that it was, in fact, a secure election. The challenge we had, though, is the fact that the president of the United States and his supporters continued to propagate, promulgate, those lies. And that is a very challenging opponent in this sense. Reporter: When Krebs, a lifelong Republican, announced that there was no evidence the election was stolen or rigged, he was fired by trump. In a tweet. I had just gotten home. It was approximately -- it was exactly 7:06 P.M. On November 17th. I got a text from a colleague that said, you just got fired by tweet. And I said, no way, that's not possible. Lo and behold, I fire up Twitter, and there it is in all its glory, that I had been terminated. What was it like for you to get the backlash from trump supporters? It's always upsetting to get -- you know, potentially intimidating, to get death threats and other character assassinations. But I, you know -- I always rest on the fact that we did the right thing, that we put country over party, and my sense is that when they write the history books on this, that we're going to come out on the right side of history. I can live with that. Reporter: Another trump official turned critic, Olivia Troy, who served as vice president pence's top adviser on the covid-19 task force. She says she wasn't the only one appalled that the president repeatedly minimized the threat of the virus, often via tweets. And I remember thinking, those governors, what are they feeling right now? Reading that tweet, knowing that they have been bullied, knowing that the supplies promised to them repeatedly sometimes did not arrive, knowing that this pandemic was raging across the U.S. And there was no end in sight? And so to sit there and celebrate the success of this pandemic, the response, when this pandemic was just only gearing up and getting worse, was just shocking. One day it's like a miracle, it will disappear. Reporter: The president shrugging off the danger. When you look at that tweet, comparing it to the flu, what goes through your mind? I think about the task force meeting where the president himself asked that question. He specifically asked, is this worse than the flu? And he was told, yes, this is incredibly more dangerous than the flu. It spreads, it is more contagious, we are looking at a very different situation when it comes to this virus. Reporter: On the morning of October 2nd, the president tweeted that he and the first lady had covid-19. Later that day, the president was airlifted to the hospital for treatment. For three days he was given advanced experimental treatments. Still, he told his followers, don't be afraid of covid, don't let it dominate your life. What was the ultimate cost of this mismanagement of the pandemic? You're seeing it every single day right now. You're seeing the loss of life, the suffering, an economy that is going to continue to struggle. Reporter: With two safe and effective vaccines developed and approved in less than a year, trump celebrating on Twitter. Still, it was not enough to prevent 400,000 deaths, a grim milestone the country reached this week. Troye, who left the administration in September, lays the blame for the severity of the pandemic squarely at trump's feet. If I were grading the president himself, I would give him an "F." Because the legacy he has left right now is a country that is fundamentally divided on an issue such as mask wearing. So the fact that this vaccine was developed, they've had several months to plan on how to allocate this and get this out. And here we are. Right? You're seeing this colossal failure of not being -- not being able to actually implement this thing that was supposed to be the crowning achievement for this president. Reporter: As the nation was brought to its knees by the pandemic, it was also gripped by a racial reckoning after George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police. What's his name? George Floyd! Reporter: As protesters took to the streets in all 50 states the president took to Twitter, inflaming tensions. President trump's tweets during racial reconciliation were simply just more fuel to slowly burning embers that have been burning for centuries. He did very little to extinguish anything. What trump often does in his words and his tweets, they are designed to elicit shock, they're designed to elicit attention, because that is the currency that he understands. Reporter: Throughout the summer, president trump used his Twitter feed to amplify fringe voices and conspiracy theories, even retweeting a video of a Florida man yelling "White power." He hastily deleted it three hours later after facing an outcry. Reality is that we know, his supporters know, the world knows that the apology or deleted tweet isn't coming from a sincere place, and that the damage being caused by the initial tweet has already been done. It set our country back, that the president by retweeting things, the dregs of political hatred, racist hatred, throwing it out on his Twitter feed, set us back. And encouraged the worst instincts. Reporter: But it wasn't just domestic issues that got the Twitter treatment. American foreign policy was often conducted on social media for all the world to see. Talking tough about Iran. Taking a hard line on China. Touting his progress in the Middle East. Several heads of state say they have a hard time taking the United States seriously because they're talking about somebody who conducts foreign policy through firing off a series of tweets. Reporter: As the minutes tick down on a tumultuous four years, president trump's very last tweet before he was banned announced that he's skipping Joe Biden's inauguration. What a baby. I mean, seriously. No president has refused to go to his successor's inaugural for 150 years. Trump's last tweet is fitting, because that's who he was. He was more about himself than he was about the country, and that tweet sums it up.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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