It was, in short, one of the most surreal tweets Trump’s ever offered, a descriptor that we use knowing full well what bar needs to be surpassed to qualify. While many of Trump’s tweets are intentional or accidental distractions, this was something else and, as a result, quickly rushed throughout the media universe. You would have to have been under a rock not to have seen it.
Or under the Capitol dome.
Given the uniqueness of the situation, Capitol Hill reporters endeavored to get members of Trump’s party to respond to the tweet.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said that he didn’t see it.
Or, more accurately:
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also didn’t see it (and told CNN that he would “rather not hear it”). Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said he would see it when he saw it, a rare truism from an elected official. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) also said that the tweet that had spurred so much interest hadn’t yet appeared on his radar screen.
By now, we expect this dance. So many times Trump has said something on Twitter, and members of his party have not been aware of it — or have claimed not to be aware of it. On some occasions, they probably haven’t been; not everyone spends as much time staring at Twitter as journalists. Often, though, they’re obviously deploying a strategy familiar to criminal defendants the world over: feigned ignorance.
Given how proud Trump is of his tweets, we thought it was worth documenting those occasions on which people actually admitted to having not seen his tweets. Below is a review of contemporaneous news reports and, yes, tweets, indicating when elected and administration officials said they hadn’t seen something Trump had written. You may judge for yourself how likely each claim is.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) denied having seen this tweet subtly rejecting reports that Rubio was being vetted to run alongside Trump.
Sens. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) didn’t see this one.
Blunt offered a blanket statement that probably has served him well for the past three years: “I think my general comment on the president’s communicating is he just communicates differently than any president that we can compare to, and I think it’s a mistake to try to judge how he does what he does based on how anybody else would do it.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) didn’t see this tweet disparaging MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
Then-Sen.Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) didn’t see this tweet and made sure he wouldn’t.
“I don’t know that I want you to show it to me,” he said. “I can’t respond if I don’t know anything about it.”
Then-House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) didn’t see this tweet, but he assured reporters that everything was on track for passage in the House.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) didn’t see this tweet and, when told about it, wouldn’t comment.
Former Kansas governor Jeff Colyer (R) didn’t see this tweet about some of his state’s most famous citizens.
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) didn’t see this one.
Kennedy didn’t see this one, either.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) didn’t see Trump’s revision of the death toll from Hurricane Maria.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D-N.Y.) didn’t see this tweet bashing him but assured reporters that “nothing that man can say can surprise me or the people of this country. He says the most absurd things.”
Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez (R) and then-acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli didn’t see Trump’s infamous tweet about how four Democratic members of Congress should “go back” where they came from. Cuccinelli was too busy “reading regulation materials.”
Murkowski didn’t see Trump’s comparison of the impeachment inquiry to a lynching.
Neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) nor Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) saw Trump appear to intimidate an impeachment witness. Ocasio-Cortez, though, offered comment when it was shown to her.
“She is a decorated public servant that has served our country for longer and far better than the president has,” she said.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) didn’t see this tweet and declined a reporter’s generous offer to show it to him.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (D) was not aware that the president sought to free his state.
“That sounds to me like it may be a different agenda,” he said.
We’ve probably missed some examples. (Let us know if we have.) After all, the idea that Republicans in particular will claim not to have seen Trump’s tweets is by now a fixture in criticism of how Washington works.
Prepared for that eventuality, reporters Tuesday printed out Trump’s tweet about the man in Buffalo, making it that much easier for Republicans to comment. Many still didn’t.
Perhaps it’s not just about whether they’ve seen the tweets.