Donald Trump is a big fan of Twitter. He sees it as a direct pipeline to supporters, an end run on the so-called “fake news” media. Which makes any extended period of time without a tweet from the President worth noting. And we are in the midst of such a drought right now.
The last time Trump sent out a tweet was 8:17 a.m. on Wednesday. It said this: “Getting ready to leave for Cincinnati, in the GREAT STATE of OHIO, to meet with ObamaCare victims and talk Healthcare & also Infrastructure!”
Between that moment and the time of this posting, roughly 37 hours have passed. That, according to calculations made by the one and only Philip Bump of the Washington Post, is the fifth-longest Twitter outage for Trump since he announced his candidacy in June 2015. To pass the fourth longest drought, Trump will need to stay away from Twitter for 2,312 minutes – 38 total hours, or until 10:17 p.m. Thursday – which looks doable. To break his all-time longest tweet drought, according to Bump, Trump would need to not tweet until 6:14 a.m. tomorrow.
What’s fascinating about the past droughts is that they almost always have corresponded with slow news moments. Trump’s longest break from Twitter, for example, came over the 2016 Thanksgiving Day weekend – soon after he had been elected. The second longest was earlier that same month, the weekend after the election when Trump was, almost certainly, worn down from the just-concluded campaign.
This last 37 hours is not at all like those past Trump Twitter deserts. The last day and a half has seen not only the release of former FBI Director James Comey’s written testimony Wednesday documenting his relationship with the President but also Comey’s hugely high-profile testimony in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday.
If ever there was a time when you might expect Trump to take phone in hand and offer his own counter-narrative, this past 37 hours was it. And yet, nothing.
Theories abound to explain it.
The most common one is that someone took Trump’s phone away, ensuring that he simply lacked the ability to tweet. I doubt it. He’s the President of the United States. He’s made clear – in the face of much criticism – that he isn’t going to stop tweeting. I’m not sure anyone is in a position to simply tell the President to stop doing something and have him actually listen.
Then there’s the argument that Trump’s silence suggests he has now finally been made aware of the political – and legal – peril he is in, and that by tweeting he makes things worse, not better. Again, count me skeptical because Trump has never shied away from tweeting amid dicey legal and political circumstances before. (Remember that he called the Russia investigation the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history! ” in the immediate aftermath of Bob Mueller’s appointment as special counsel.)
Or maybe Trump’s staff, as they had hoped to do, successfully distracted the President over these past 37 hours – keeping him from thinking too much, and therefore tweeting too much about the situation. But how is that even possible given that we know Trump is an absolutely avid news consumer and there has been so much (and so much bad) Trump news over that period of time?
The short answer is we don’t know why Trump hasn’t tweeted since 8:17 a.m. Wednesday. But with every passing minute of Trump Twitter silence, he edges closer to his own personal best (worst?).
One other thing we know: Silence isn’t Trump’s natural state. So when the drought breaks – and it will break – look out.