Jun 9, 2020 - Politics & Policy

GOP senators avoid discussing Trump's Buffalo protester tweet

President Trump hosts a roundtable discussion with law enforcement officials on police and community relations
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Republican senators on Tuesday largely avoided discussing President Trump's tweet alleging without evidence that a 75-year-old Buffalo protester, who was seriously injured after being shoved by police, is an "ANTIFA provocateur."

Our thought bubble: It's the classic dodging mechanism, which we've grown accustomed to during the Trump presidency. Whenever senators and Trump advisers don't want to weigh in on an inflammatory tweet that puts them in a difficult position, they claim they haven't read it.

Yes, but: Privately, Trump administration and Senate Republican aides acknowledge the absurdity and danger of a tweet such as this, which promotes a conspiracy theory that has real-world consequences for a man who remains hospitalized.

  • However, the fear of crossing Trump and risking being on the receiving end of one of these tweets often keeps senators from saying so publicly.

One notable exception was Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who called the tweet "a shocking thing to say, and I won’t dignify it with any further comment," per NBC's Frank Thorp.

Worth noting: The White House has previously said Trump's tweets are official statements, but GOP senators seem to be more willing to brush them off.

  • They're less shy about doing so when the president's actions are more tangible, like when many scolded Trump last week for clearing peaceful protesters before a photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church near the White House.

What they're saying, via CNN's Manu Raju: Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said, "It's a serious accusation which should only be made with facts and evidence and I haven't seen any yet."

  • But he added that "most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the president's tweets."
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has faced Trump's ire in recent days, refused to comment: "Why would you want to fan the flames?"
  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): "You know a lot of this stuff just goes over my head."
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): "I didn't see it, you're telling me about it. I don't read Twitter. I only write on it."
  • Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska): "I'm on my way to a meeting. I’ll see it when I see it."
  • Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.): "I'm not going to give a running commentary on the president’s tweets."
Go deeper