President Trump’s Twitter has been a hot topic of discussion from the very beginning of his presidency. But what is perhaps even more interesting are the tweets that the president chooses to delete.
On Tuesday, Trump sparked outrage when he retweeted a picture featuring a train hitting an individual with the CNN logo over their face:
He then removed the retweet, prompting questions about his initial intentions and the reasoning behind his reversal.
Members of Trump’s administration and his ardent supporters often argue that the media spends too much time on the president’s Twitter habits. While it is fair to say that Trump faces a great deal of scrutiny for nearly every action, it is not necessarily unfair for his Twitter to be watched as closely as it is.
Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer revealed prior to the inauguration that Trump would make use of his personal @realDonaldTrump account and the official @POTUS account for presidents. Spicer also confirmed in June that Trump’s tweets from his personal account are official statements. This means that the things he says on Twitter carry the same weight as a statement from the White House on behalf of the president.
Because of this, Twitter announcements for policies, such as the proposed ban on transgender service troops, have been treated as official announcements by the public and the media.
On the same day Trump shared the CNN meme, he also retweeted and then deleted a tweet by a man named Mike Holden:
Holden called Trump a fascist in response to a Fox News tweet about the president’s intentions to pardon controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The president’s retweets for the day are archived here.
The circumstances regarding Trump’s sharing of Holden’s tweet remain unclear. Maybe he truly intended to call Arpaio a fascist, an odd thing to say of the man for which a president is exploring clemency. Perhaps he pressed the wrong button altogether, a mistake that would also require him to accidentally confirm that he wanted to proceed with the retweet.
As some work to solve that mystery, others wonder why the president chose to remove his CNN retweet.
His feelings about CNN are much easier to gauge. In July, Trump shared a video of himself body slamming a CNN logo plastered over WWE’s Vince McMahon’s face:
A list of Trump’s deleted tweets during his presidential tenure, courtesy of Pro Publica, shows that his two retweets from Tuesday fall into two of the three primary kinds of tweets that get axed: tweets with spelling errors and mistakes, promotional tweets and controversial tweets.
The president mostly deletes tweets for spelling errors and mistakes, like his now-deleted “covfefe” tweet. The president has also deleted a handful of tweets promoting either his own or others’ appearances on Fox News, an interesting move considering the criticisms of his preferential treatment towards the network.
Finally, it seems that the sorts of controversial tweets that Trump deletes, including the CNN picture from Tuesday, are done out of some sense of awareness.
In February, Trump deleted a tweet about his meeting with generals in Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. The tweet was only up for 59 minutes. The tweet and decision to delete it occurred a week after the president was slammed for conducting a sensitive national security meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in an open setting. A restaurant patron shared pictures of the dinner, which occurred “seconds after news broke that North Korea had fired a missile towards Japan,” on their social media.
The president also deleted a controversial retweet regarding Pope Francis, but not as quickly as several others. In February of 2016, the pope suggested that Christians should “not raise walls but bridges.” This prompted Trump to retweet a harsh response to the pope’s words. It was eventually deleted on June 10 of this year.
Another thing to be considered when discussing Trump’s deleted tweets is the legality of his actions.
Earlier in the year, the White House agreed to archive Trump’s tweets for the National Archives and Records Administration for official record. Since that time, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the National Security Archive, two government watchdog groups, have filed a lawsuit over Trump’s deleted tweets.
“Presidential statements made on Twitter sent from the President’s personal Twitter account, which are subject to federal record-keeping obligations, have been destroyed,” the suit argues. The groups explain that Trump’s deleted tweets may provide key insight into Trump’s decision-making, like his sudden move to fire former FBI Director James Comey.
“By deleting these records, the White House is destroying essential historical records,” said CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder in a statement.
Though he’s been known for several years to have quite the social media presence, Trump’s inauguration has made his Twitter account much more significant than the average American’s.