- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2017

President Trump finally found a way to distract the Washington press corps — and much of the world — from the Russia investigation: “Covfefe.”

But by the end of the day, somehow the White House managed to bring it back around to Russia.

The garbled word that Mr. Trump tossed into the Twitterverse late at night went viral Wednesday and the White House couldn’t help but keep it going.

“Despite the constant negative press covfefe,” Mr. Trump tweeted around midnight.

The tweet stayed up for about five hours, becoming a popular meme before it was deleted.

Mr. Trump could have called it a typo and moved on. But that’s not his style. He appeared to relish the keen interest on Twitter about covfefe, even if it was mocking.

“Who can figure out the true meaning of ‘covfefe’ ??? Enjoy!” the president tweeted at about 6 a.m.

Most figured he meant to type “coverage” but thumbed a few wrong letters on his cellphone.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer kept interest alive by implying some mystery behind the tweet.

Asked by reporters whether Americans should be concerned that the president is tweeting incoherently in the middle of the night, Mr. Spicer replied: “No.”

But he didn’t let it end there. “The president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant,” he said, sparking a barrage of questions from the crowd in the White House briefing room.

What does it mean?

Who’s the small group?

Mr. Spicer didn’t answer — but Mr. Trump’s political opponents were eager to offer explanations.

“I thought it was a hidden message to the Russians,” Hillary Clinton said at the Code Conference in California, where she offered a slew of excuses for her loss to Mr. Trump in the presidential race.

She also had a response to Mr. Spicer’s cryptic comment.

“The small group classification,” she said jokingly. “You don’t have enough classification to know what covfefe means.”

Daniel Swingley, a psychology professor in the University of Pennsylvania’s Linguistics Department, said it looked like a typo to him.

“I think it is very unlikely to be a secret message. It seems much more likely to be a not-secret, familiar message, whose meaning is either ‘I speak without thinking’, or ‘I’m trying to distract you,’ said the professor.

He said the tweet and the hubbub surrounding it did, at least, demonstrate two thing.

“One, playing right into a stereotype makes all the stereotypers as happy as clams at high tide,” he said. “Two, Mr. Spicer doesn’t appear to have good intuitions about which things to dismiss, and which things to imply are weird and mysterious. In this case, he takes something of no particular significance, and he somehow constructs something akin to a conspiracy theory out of it.”

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

• Sally Persons can be reached at spersons@washingtontimes.com.

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