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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

Romney slams Senate GOP's Biden investigation as a "political exercise"

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on Wednesday criticized his Republican colleagues on the Senate Homeland Security Committee for their probe into Joe Biden and his son's dealings in Ukraine, saying that it has the "earmarks of a political exercise."

Why it matters: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is leading the investigation, told supporters on Monday that "in about a week we’re going to learn a whole lot more of Vice President Biden’s unfitness for office." The committee is investigating Hunter Biden's work for Ukrainian gas company Burisma at a time when Joe Biden was leading the Obama administration's Ukraine policy.

39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Stalemate over filibuster freezes Congress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell's inability to quickly strike a deal on a power-sharing agreement in the new 50-50 Congress is slowing down everything from the confirmation of President Biden's nominees to Donald Trump's impeachment trial.

Why it matters: Whatever final stance Schumer takes on the stalemate, which largely comes down to Democrats wanting to use the legislative filibuster as leverage over Republicans, will be a signal of the level of hardball we should expect Democrats to play with Republicans in the new Senate.

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden opts for five-year extension of New START nuclear treaty with Russia

Putin at a military parade. Photo: Valya Egorshin/NurPhoto via Getty

President Biden will seek a five-year extension of the New START nuclear arms control pact with Russia before it expires on Feb. 5, senior officials told the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The 2010 treaty is the last remaining constraint on the arsenals of the world's two nuclear superpowers, limiting the number of deployed nuclear warheads and the bombers, missiles and submarines which can deliver them.

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