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Ted Cruz Got Doused with Dr Pepper. Then He Tweeted the Zodiac Killer Cipher Thing

Just another day for the junior senator.

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Photo Illustration by Jenn Hair; Cruz photograph by Win McNamee/Getty

Did you wake up this morning and ask yourself, “what perfectly normal behavior is our state’s Junior Senator, Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz, up to on this day, October 18, in the 2017th year of our Lord?” Well, it’s this:

Confused? You should be. At first glance, it may seem strange that Cruz, who is definitely, absolutely not the Zodiac Killer, is tweeting from his account the very same cipher that the infamous serial murderer from San Francisco used. How did we get here? Actually, where are we? Let us explain.

It all began during a contentious gathering of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which met on Wednesday to question Attorney Jeff Sessions on his involvement with Russian interference in the 2016 election. Things got particularly heated during an exchange between Sessions and Minnesota Senator Al Franken, and right after that, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse opened his questioning with a shocking confession: during the kerfuffle, Sasse apparently dumped his Dr Pepper drink on a poor, defenseless Cruz.

It’s unclear what prompted the savage act. Although Sasse promptly apologized for “accidentally” spilling the beverage, his sincerity has since come into question.

Now, we don’t want to get too Deep into Dr Peppergate conspiracies here, but the people need to know. So far, no video has emerged from the panel that would definitively prove what went down in those harrowing, fizzy seconds of sugary horror—a fact that’s suspicious on its own, given the room was full of news media and cameras. There must be something they don’t want us to see. Something so explosive, so controversial, that it may potentially bring down American Democracy as we know it. There are, of course, a few working theories about what happened here, so put on your tinfoil hat and strap in for the ride. (We’ve reached out to Ted Cruz’s team for a comment—or a conspiracy theory—but have yet to receive a response.)

The first theory is the most obvious: Sasse simply lost control during the contentious debate, and dropped his glass. An accident. Sure. So simple. So believable. Perhaps… too believable.

Then there’s the False Flag theory. Who would actually want Cruz covered in Dr Pepper? It’s no secret that Cruz isn’t exactly beloved by his colleagues. Literally everyone in Congress is a viable suspect here. Perhaps no one dislikes Cruz more than Franken, who devoted an entire chapter of his recent book to the colleague who he described as “the guy who microwaves fish in the office.” In this scenario, Franken is where this whole thing began. He has a motive, and he’s cunning enough to pull off a grand conspiracy. Perhaps he planted the Dr Pepper next to Sasse’s elbow, knowing he’d get all riled up when Franken was questioning Sessions. Or perhaps he tampered with the glass, installing tiny, remote-triggered trap doors meant to send Dr Pepper flowing toward Cruz at his clandestine command.

But in that theory, Sasse is innocent, merely a pawn in a greater conspiracy. Instead, his tweets seem to indicate he was in on it all along. But why? Sasse liked Cruz enough to cast an early vote for him in the Republican primary back in March. What set Sasse off? There’s only one explanation: revenge.

Cruz is known to be a little loose with his Twitter fingers, and Sasse once became an unwitting target of his notorious snark. Let’s go back to May 18. It was the beginning of a long, hot summer. Sasse was perched on a railing somewhere in D.C., dressed casually in red basketball shorts and a white tee-shirt, chatting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton—a meme-able moment if there ever was one. It was candidly caught on camera.

Cruz weighed in, poking fun at the trio, at Sasse’s expense:

Senators never forget. It’s not too hard to imagine Sasse seething over this, plotting his revenge for months, just waiting for the right moment. On Wednesday, that moment presented itself. The Dr Pepper, just sitting there. Ted Cruz, distracted by a heated Senate hearing. Just a little tap, that’s all it’d take, Sasse probably thought to himself, eying Cruz next to the full, nearly overflowing glass of Dr Pepper. Remember the RompHim!

Another potential suspect is Bernie Sanders. The Vermont senator isn’t on the Senate Judiciary Committee, perhaps only because he wanted to put enough distance between himself and Cruz when all of this went down. It’s entirely believable that the street-savvy senator could have ordered a soda hit on Cruz. See, the two have a town hall debate scheduled for Wednesday night, a battle over tax reform, on CNN. It’s possible that Sanders wanted to leave Cruz shaken and scared heading into the debate. Watch closely Wednesday to see how Cruz performs—if he’s stumbling over his answers and constantly looking over his shoulder, don’t be surprised to see Sanders smiling deviantly in the background, twirling an empty two-liter bottle of Dr Pepper.

Cruz could have been in on it all along, of course. He’s no stranger to conspiracies. Perhaps he wanted the attention. Or perhaps it was a savvy political move, and Cruz figured that by covering himself in Dr Pepper, he’d become as popular among voters and colleagues as the beloved carbonated beverage is. Remember, Dr Pepper is a Texas-based company, so this may have been a calculated decision based on focus group testing among his constituents. With Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke coming on strong ahead of the 2018 election, Cruz may be ready to try every trick in the political playbook. An inside job seems a strong possibility here, especially considering Cruz keeps an arsenal of Dr Pepper in his office:

Whatever went down, Cruz emerged unscathed, though maybe a little sticky. He was in good spirits afterwards and jumped right into the Twitter fun, tweeting out the Zodiac cipher in response to Sasse’s Lee Harvey Oswald comment, a nod at his own connections to the conspiracy theorist universe.

We may never know the truth.

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