Team Trump Not Backing Down on ‘Assassination Attempt’
On the final Sunday before Election Day, Donald Trump’s campaign manager yet again found herself batting down the newest controversy affecting the campaign.
On Sunday, Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway deflected when questioned over whether it was irresponsible for two top advisers to Donald Trump to suggest that an attempt was made to assassinate their candidate on Saturday night.
Almost immediately after a security scare at a Trump rally in Reno, Nevada, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and the campaign’s social media director, Dan Scavino, retweeted a message on Twitter that described it as an “assassination attempt” against the Republican presidential nominee. However, there is no evidence that the incident was anything close to an attempt to kill or even harm Trump.
While speaking at the rally on Saturday, Trump was abruptly rushed off the stage by the Secret Service after a fight broke out in the crowd in front of him. When the scuffle began, someone in the audience yelled “Gun!”—sparking a swift response from the agents and law enforcement at the scene. However, no gun was found, and a few minutes later, Trump safely returned to the stage to finish his speech.
As of Sunday morning, there is still no evidence that an “assassination attempt” on Trump took place in Reno this weekend. (In March, Trump falsely claimed that ISIS had attacked him while he was on-stage at a rally in Dayton, Ohio.) The man at the heart of the scuffle, who later identified himself to press as Austyn Crites, claimed that the incident occurred after he raised his “Republicans Against Trump” sign. Crites said he was quickly attacked by a group of Trump supporters before the word “gun” was shouted.
“All of a sudden, because they couldn't grab the sign, or whatever happened, bam, I get tackled by all these people who were just, like, kicking me and grabbing me in the crotch and just, just beating the crap out of me,” Crites said. “And somebody yells something about a gun, and so that's when things really got out of hand.”
Conway artfully dodged the question of whether it was responsible for Trump Jr. and Scavino to retweet a description of the incident as an attempt to murder Trump, and said CNN and other outlets should first retract their purported recent reporting that Clinton has the election in the bag.
“I’m glad nobody was hurt, but it does remind you that in these closing days, especially as the polls tighten, many of us are getting more death threats, getting more angry messages on social media and elsewhere,” Conway said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It’s a pretty fraught environment there. I think that’s the real focus here.”
Conway continued: “If you’re Don Jr. and you’re on a live TV set while you’re watching this unfold, it’s pretty rattling to think of what may have happened to your father, so I’ll excuse him.”
CNN host Jake Tapper pushed back, saying the individual—a Republican who is voting for Hillary Clinton and has donated to her campaign—was not trying to assassinate Trump.
“First of all, that’s really remarkable, I have to say, that that’s what the storyline is here,” Conway responded. “Is CNN going to retract all the storylines, all the headlines, all the breathless predictions of the last two weeks that have turned out not to be true? ‘The race is over. The path is closed. It’s going to be a blowout.’ You guys retract that and I’ll give a call to Dan Scavino about the retweet.”
Asked about the Nevada disturbance on a conference call with reporters on Sunday morning, the Trump campaign first demurred, then implied the man was a Democrat masquerading as a Republican.
“We have very little data on it, very similar to what’s been made public, we don’t know a lot about [it]…speaking a lot about it too early is a mistake so we are going to be learning as we go today,” said Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie.
“We are told that he is a quote, Republican, who has canvassed for Hillary Clinton and donated money to her campaign,” Conway said on the call.
Some of Trump’s closest allies are more than happy to continue the “assassination” talk—with zero evidence from law enforcement officials, the Secret Service, or any reliable source that any such attempt was made on Saturday evening.
Ann Coulter, one of the most enthusiastic and hardest-working Trump boosters in conservative media, continued tweeting well into Sunday morning about those she’s dubbed “leftist assassins” such as Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wilkes Booth.
—Jackie Kucinich contributed reporting.