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Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans: The Masters of “Don’t Recall”

Feb 9, 2024

It’s no secret that the disgraced, four-time indicted, insurrection-starting former president Donald Trump is involved in multiple criminal investigations. In interview transcripts of Trump, his children, and his closest allies like Marjorie Taylor Greene, the phrases “I don’t know,” or “I can’t recall,” were uttered hundreds of times, especially in the House January 6th Select Committee’s interviews investigating the former President’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. 

Donald Trump

The Washington Post: Trump Claims In Deposition He Can’t Recall Affair With Marla Maples. “ Donald Trump’s October 2022 deposition in the E. Jean Carroll case was already notable for something he said about his second wife, Marla Maples. Trump infamously mistook Carroll for Maples in a photo he was shown, despite having suggested that because Carroll was ‘not my type’ he would have had no interest in her. Carroll has accused him of a decades-old rape. But Trump’s ostensible fuzziness about that Maples era of his life apparently extended to elsewhere in the deposition, a transcript and video of which was released Friday. At one point, Carroll’s attorney asked Trump a basic factual question: ‘Isn’t it true that you were seeing Ms. Maples before you were divorced from Ivana Trump?’ Trump responded, amazingly, ‘I don’t know,’ in the sworn deposition. ‘It was towards the end of the marriage. So I don’t know, really. It could be a lapover, but I don’t really know.’” [The Washington Post, 5/6/23]

CNN Politics: Trump Said He Could Not Recall, Remember Or Recollect More Than 30 Times In His Answers To Mueller. “President Donald Trump’s written testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller showed Trump repeatedly responded to inquiries with brief denials or lack of recollection on wide-ranging topics, saying more than 30 times he did not recall, remember or recollect.” [CNN Politics, 4/18/19

  • Politico: 27 Times Trump Can’t Remember. “Following the release of the redacted Mueller report, President Donald Trump’s lawyers provided the full transcript of Trump’s written answers to questions Mueller posed to the president during his investigation. More than two dozen times, Trump’s answers included phrases like ‘I can’t remember’ or ‘I do not recall.’” [Politico, 4/18/19]
  • Business Insider: Trump’s Written Responses To Mueller’s Questions Were Evidently Chock Full Of ‘I Don’t Remember’. “President Donald Trump replied on ’30 occasions’ that he didn’t ‘recall’ or ‘remember’ or didn’t have an ‘independent recollection’ of events in written answers to a set of questions from the special counsel Robert Mueller.” [Business Insider, 4/18/19]
  • The New York Times: ‘I Do Not Remember’: Trump Gave A Familiar Reply To The Special Counsel’s Queries. “President Trump has boasted at various points that he has ‘one of the great memories of all time’ or even ‘the world’s greatest memory.’ But the world’s greatest memory failed him repeatedly when prosecutors asked him those classic questions from decades of presidential scandals — what did he know and when did he know it.” [The New York Times, 4/20/19]

NBC News: In Trump U. Lawsuit Deposition, Trump Can’t Remember ‘World’s Greatest Memory’ Boast. “Donald Trump claims to have a world-class memory, but it certainly wasn’t on display during his deposition for a lawsuit over Trump University. ‘I don’t remember,’ Trump told lawyers 35 times during his December testimony, which was released on Wednesday. His inability to recall covered a wide range of subjects — including whether he had told NBC News’ Katy Tur just a month earlier that he had the ‘world’s Greatest memory.’” [NBC News, 6/23/16]

  • The Hill: Trump Can’t Recall Saying He Has One Of The World’s Best Memories. “At one point, he told Trump that the businessman had stated he had ‘one of the best memories in the world,’ according to a transcript that includes hundreds of pages of testimony. ‘I don’t know. Did I use that expression?’ Trump asked. When told he had used the phrase, the billionaire asked to see evidence that he had said it, being told there was video of his remark. ‘Did I say I have a great memory or one of the best in the world?’ Trump asked for clarification, to which he was told he’d said he had ‘one of the best in the world.’ ‘I don’t remember saying that. As good as my memory is, I don’t remember that, but I have a good memory,’ Trump responded.” [The Hill, 6/23/16]

CBS New York: Trump Says He Doesn’t Recall Insulting Women Except For Rosie O’Donnell. “GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump says he can’t recall specifics of insulting women, though news reports paint a long history of him comparing women to animals. Trump said Friday he doesn’t recognize the words Fox News’s Megyn Kelly used during the first Republican Candidates presidential debate on Thursday. Kelly asked about him having called women ‘fat pigs,” ‘dogs,” ‘slobs,” and ‘disgusting animals.’” [CBS New York, 8/7/15]

Trump Family

OK! News: Ivanka Trump Repeated ‘I Don’t Recall’ Over 30 Times During Her Trump Organization Civil Fraud Testimony. “Ivanka was presented with several documents by the prosecution. These documents included letters and emails written by the Trump daughter herself, but she repeatedly answered, ‘I don’t recall’ after being presented with every document. She ended up repeating the phrase over 30 times.” [OK! News, 11/8/23]

  • The Guardian: ‘I Don’t Recall’: Ivanka Trump Testifies In Father’s New York Fraud Trial.‘I don’t recall,’ Ivanka Trump repeatedly told a New York court on Wednesday as she took the witness stand at her father’s $250m fraud trial and was quizzed about deals prosecutors claim prove the Trump Organization knowingly misled lenders… ‘I don’t recall,’ Ivanka Trump repeatedly told a New York court on Wednesday as she took the witness stand at her father’s $250m fraud trial and was quizzed about deals prosecutors claim prove the Trump Organization knowingly misled lenders.” [The Guardian, 11/8/23]
  • ABC News: Jan. 6 Committee Releases 46 More Interview Transcripts From Probe. “Ivanka Trump, in her testimony, repeatedly told the committee that she could not recall or remember the answers to their questions about her actions and conversations on Jan. 6 — including those with her father. According to the transcripts, the phrase ‘don’t recall,’ ‘don’t remember,’ or ‘don’t know’ came up more than 300 times amongst her and investigators while she was being interviewed.” [ABC News, 10/23/22]

Vanity Fair: The Trump Boys Can’t Recall a Thing. “The proceedings have also given the Trump boys their own on camera costarring turns. In an old deposition that Letitia James’s office released on Monday, both Eric and Donald could be seen not recalling certain aspects of the case or business practices. Similar answers to different questions. But like a couple of jazz guys putting their own stamp on a years-old standard, each had his own specific texture to the tune.” [Vanity Fair, 10/3/23]

  • The Guardian: Donald Trump Jr Tells Court ‘I Don’t Recall’ In Response To Questions At Trump Family Fraud Trial – As It Happened. “Donald Trump Jr was asked a series of question about the roles he, his father and Allen Weisselberg had as trustees of the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust. So far, he has said he does not recall much, including why there was a brief period in 2021 when he had resigned and then been restored onto the trust. When asked whether his father is still a trustee of the trust, Trump Jr said, ‘I don’t recall’.” [The Guardian, 11/1/23]

The Washington Post: 54 Things Donald Trump Jr. Couldn’t ‘Recall’ Or ‘Remember’ In His Testimony. “In a newly released transcript of his testimony, Trump repeatedly couched his answers about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting by saying he did not ‘remember’ or that he didn’t ‘recall’ certain things. Even when he was pretty sure, he’d say ‘not that I recall’ or something like that. The result was a pretty cagey piece of testimony. Below is a list of 54 substantive issues on which Trump cited his lack of a memory: 1. Details of the Trump Tower meeting in general: ‘Again, I don’t remember too many details of it.’ 2. The presence of an eighth person — Russian American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin — in the Trump Tower meeting: ‘As I mentioned in my statement, people have said there was an eighth person. I just can’t remember. … I’ve heard the name. I don’t recall now.’ (Trump couldn’t remember this despite another attendee, Ike Kaveladze, saying Akhmetshin wore a hot pink outfit.) 3. Whether the meeting’s attendees were introduced: ‘I don’t recall, but I imagine that’s likely.’ …” [The Washington Post, 5/16/18]

MAGA Republicans

Vanity Fair: Marjorie Taylor Greene Apparently Can’t “Recall” Anything That Happened in the Last Three Years. “For instance, asked if she spoke to anyone about January 6 demonstrations prior to being sworn into Congress or after, if she spoke to anyone in the government about the planned protests, if she spoke to Arizona reps. Andy Biggs or Paul Gosar about them, if she spoke to anyone at the White House about them, or if she had been told by anyone that there might be violence in Washington on January 6, Greene responded, ‘I don’t remember’—to every single question. If she, like others, advocated for Donald Trump to use martial law to stop Joe Biden from becoming president? Naturally, Greene could not remember. Videos that might make her look bad being conveniently removed from Facebook? Obviously, the congresswoman couldn’t ‘recall’ how that happened.” [Vanity Fair, 4/22/22]

NBC News: Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Lawyers Say She Has ‘no Recollection’ Of Martial Law Text To Mark Meadows. “Greene testified under oath for nearly four hours as a witness at a hearing last week and was asked whether she had advocated for martial law before Biden’s inauguration. ‘I don’t recall,’ Greene said repeatedly when she was asked about conversations and social media posts surrounding the election and the attack on Jan. 6, 2021. ‘Days before the inauguration she was still engaged in trying to find a way to stop the transition of power,’ Bonifaz said. ‘In our view the evidence is overwhelming that it’s not believable she didn’t remember any of this.’” [NBC News, 4/28/22]

Salon: “I Don’t Recall”: Pence Tells Fox News He Can’t Remember If He Was On Standby For Trump. “Fox News host Bret Baier brought up the reporting Tuesday night during an interview with Pence, seeming to catch the vice president off-guard. Pence clearly wanted to avoid answering the question, and when pinned down, claimed he didn’t ‘recall’ being on ‘standby’ — extremely evasive language that suggests he may be relying on technicalities to justify essentially lying to the public… It was a clear opportunity for a flat denial of Schmidt’s story, but Pence couldn’t manage it. He continued with weasel words.” [Salon, 9/2/20]

Trump’s Former Communications Director: “I Don’t Remember The Exact Year I Left” The RNC. According to the transcript of former Trump communications director Kayleigh McEnany’s deposition with the January 6th Select Committee, when asked if she knew when she left the Republican National Committee (RNC), McEnany replied, “I don’t remember the exact year.” [Deposition of Kayleigh McEnany, 1/12/22]