After enthusiastically endorsing an Alabama senator’s campaign for re-election, President Trump distanced himself on Tuesday night from the candidate’s loss in the most Trumpian way possible: He deleted his supportive tweets.
Hours after Senator Luther Strange, a Republican from Alabama, lost in Tuesday’s primary runoff, Mr. Trump excised at least three favorable Twitter posts, including one sent Tuesday morning. In that tweet, posted as the polls in Alabama opened, the president boasted that Mr. Strange “has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement.”
Mr. Strange, who was appointed to the Senate early this year after Jeff Sessions vacated his seat to become attorney general under Mr. Trump, conceded on Tuesday night to Roy S. Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice whose candidacy was opposed by leading establishment Republicans.
The deleted tweets were archived by ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism website, but are no longer public on Twitter, feeding into an intriguing legal debate about whether Mr. Trump is breaking the law when he expunges his tweets.
Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited Alabama on Friday to attend a rally for Mr. Strange. The closely watched campaign was seen by many as a barometer of Mr. Trump’s political sway. Mr. Strange was the first candidate endorsed by the president to lose an election since Mr. Trump took office.
Around the same time the president was deleting tweets about Mr. Strange, he also deleted a tweet congratulating Mr. Moore on his victory. He later reposted that message, and early Wednesday he tweeted about speaking with Mr. Moore by telephone.
It is unclear why the president chose to delete the tweets he did. Several tweets endorsing Mr. Strange, whom the president often called “Big Luther,” but which were sent in the weeks before Mr. Trump’s visit to Alabama, remain public.
At a rally for Mr. Strange in Alabama on Friday, Mr. Trump openly wondered whether it was a mistake to campaign for the senator, given his flagging poll numbers.
Even after getting elected president, Mr. Trump has maintained personal control of his Twitter account. He has used his posts to skewer opponents, respond to critics and, he says, to communicate directly to voters without the filter of the news media.