On the 161st day of the fourth year of the Trump presidency, having grown accustomed to Republican lawmakers’ favorite excuse for refusing to comment on President Donald Trump’s latest incendiary tweet, reporters resorted to a rare tactic.
They printed out copies of Trump’s post — this one containing an unsubstantiated suggestion that an older protester shoved and injured by the police in Buffalo was an antifa provocateur who staged his own assault — for any Republican who might try to fall back on what has become a stock response: “I didn’t see the tweet.”
It did not work. Even faced with documentary evidence of the president’s inflammatory remark, most Republicans averted their gaze Tuesday, declining to comment as they darted through the hallways of Capitol Hill and appearing to wish away what was on paper in front of them.
Their reactions were the most vivid illustration to date of an extraordinary dynamic among elected Republicans that has been building almost since the moment Trump took office — behaving as if they have no idea what he is doing or saying. After thousands of tweets carrying falsehoods, racist language and demeaning barbs against their own colleagues — not to mention the news reports, book excerpts or speeches that have roiled this administration — lawmakers in his party have largely settled on blissful ignorance as a way of avoiding defending the indefensible.
“I didn’t see it — you’re telling me about it,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. and a frequent user of the platform, told a CNN reporter of the message. “I don’t read Twitter, I only write on it.”
Handed a copy of the post, Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., scanned the page before saying, “I don’t even know the episode he’s talking about.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who was trained as a lawyer and has himself been targeted by Trump on Twitter, made a process argument: He has a long-standing policy of not commenting on the president’s tweets