It isn’t the first time that Republicans, confronted with a controversial Trump quote, have said the president wasn’t being serious. Trump even told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III that his infamous request to Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s “missing” emails was a joke. That Capitol Hill Republicans would go back to this well is no surprise; it’s an easy dodge when, according to The Post’s Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, GOP lawmakers and aides say privately that their “collective strategy is simply to survive and not make any sudden moves.”

The difference this time is that the president himself isn’t claiming that he was joking, not in any of his numerous Twitter missives since that South Lawn appearance. Instead, he laid into criticism from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) about his request to China. And Sunday afternoon he said on Twitter that he would “would LOVE running” against Biden.

Not only wasn’t Trump joking about asking China to investigate Biden, he isn’t pretending that he was. In other words, Republican politicians don’t want you to believe the president.