Senate

Trump’s tweet on protester sparks GOP backlash 

President Trump’s tweet about a 75-year-old Buffalo protester is getting pushback from Republican senators.

Trump on Tuesday floated that an elderly man pushed to the ground by police in Buffalo, N.Y., during a protest over the police killing of George Floyd could be a “set up” and an “ANTIFA provocateur.”

The tweet sparked immediate backlash from GOP senators and caused broader headaches as lawmaker after lawmaker was approached by reporters with a copy of the tweet.

“It’s a serious accusation which should only be made with facts and evidence, and I haven’t seen any yet,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican.

Asked if the president should stop making the accusation, he added: “Well, I think that’s a given.”

Asked about the tweet, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters that she thought “it would best if the president did not comment on issues that are before the courts.”

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters that he thought it was “shocking.”

“I won’t dignify it with any further comment,” he added.

Asked about the tweet, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) responded: “Oh lord.”

“It just makes no sense that we’re fanning the flames right at this time, this is not good,” she added. 

Two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault after video went viral of them shoving Martin Gugino after he approached them during the protest. The 75-year-old staggered and fell backward, hitting his head on the concrete and lying motionless as blood pooled on the sidewalk and the officers walked away.

The officers, Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe, have pleaded not guilty in the incident. Gugino is still in the hospital.

The president cited right-wing One America News Network (OANN) in making the incendiary claim, which comes amid a national debate over police brutality.

“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment,” Trump tweeted, appearing to refer to a report on OANN.

“I watched, he fell harder than was pushed,” the president added. “Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

Several GOP senators declined to comment on the tweet.

“I didn’t see it, you’re telling me about it, I don’t read Twitter, I only write on it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told CNN.

Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) told reporters that he had “no real response.”

“I don’t think it should be surprising in general because he tweets a lot so I don’t know how significant this one tweet is gonna be,” he added.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said he hasn’t seen the tweet. When a reporter replied that they had a copy to show them, he replied: “I know.”

“I’d just as soon not,” he added.

Updated at 7:07 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump George Floyd GOP John Thune Lisa Murkowski Marco Rubio Martin Gugino Mike Braun Mitt Romney Pat Roberts Protests Republicans Susan Collins tweet
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