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Trump jokes about Greg Gianforte body-slamming reporter amid Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance

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Greg Gianforte
Rep.
Greg Gianforte of Montana.

Justin
Sullivan/Getty Images


  • President Donald Trump on Thursday praised Republican
    Rep. Greg Gianforte and called him “my guy” for body slamming a
    journalist in 2017.
  • “And by the way, never wrestle him, you understand
    that? Never,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Montana. “Any
    guy that can do a body slam, he’s my guy.”
  • Gianforte was captured on an audio recording physically
    assaulting Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian
    newspaper. “Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and
    broke my glasses,” Jacobs 
    tweeted shortly
    after the incident.
  • The encounter did little to hinder Gianforte in the
    Montana special election that month. He went on to defeat his
    Democratic opponent.
  • Trump’s remarks come as new evidence supporting the
    theory that the US-based Washington Post columnist Jamal
    Khashoggi was brutally killed in a Saudi Consulate in
    Turkey.

President Donald Trump on Thursday praised Republican Rep. Greg
Gianforte and called him “my guy” for body-slamming a journalist
and breaking his glasses during an incident in 2017.

Gianforte
was captured on an audio recording
physically assaulting Ben
Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian newspaper, in May 2017. 

“Greg Gianforte just body slammed me and broke my glasses,”
Jacobs tweeted shortly
after the incident.

It happened at Gianforte’s campaign headquarters in Bozeman,
Montana, one day before residents headed to the polls for a
special election in his district.

According to multiple witnesses at the time, Jacobs had asked
Gianforte a question on a Congressional Budget Office report on
the American Health Care Act before he was slammed to the ground.

Trump described Greg as “smart” and warned his audience not to
antagonize the Republican lawmaker.

“And by the way, never wrestle him, you understand that? Never,”
Trump joked. “Any guy that can do a body slam, he’s my guy.”

“I shouldn’t say … there’s nothing to be embarrassed about,”
Trump said to the cheering crowd.


Donald Trump
President
President Donald Trump arrives as the sun sets to speak at a
campaign rally at Minuteman Aviation Hangar, October 18, 2018, in
Missoula, Montana.

Carolyn
Kaster/AP


Trump also recounted how he initially heard about the incident,
and why he believed it to be good news for Gianforte’s campaign
as voters headed to the polls.

“So I was in Rome with a lot of the leaders from other countries,
talking about all sorts of things, when I heard about it,” Trump
said. “And we endorsed Greg very early. But I had heard he body
slammed a reporter.”

“And I said ‘Oh, this is terrible. he’s going to lose the
election,'” Trump said before adding, “Then I said ‘Well, wait a
minute. I know Montana pretty well, I think it might help him.’
And it did.”

Gianforte pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and was
sentenced to 40 hours of community service and 20 hours of
anger-management, in addition to the $385 in court fees and
fines. The judge called Gianforte’s actions “totally
unacceptable” but gave him a six-month deferred sentence.

Despite the negative publicity, Gianforte went on to
defeat Democrat Rob Quist
by six percentage points in the
Republican-leaning district.

Trump’s comments on Thursday night prompted some criticism,
including from Jacobs’ publication.

“The President of the United States tonight applauded the assault
on an American journalist who works for the Guardian,” John
Mulholland, US editor of The Guardian, said in a statement. “To
celebrate an attack on a journalist who was simply doing his job
is an attack on the First Amendment by someone who has taken an
oath to defend it.”

Trump’s remarks on Gianforte’s assault come amid new
evidence
 surrounding the disappearance of the US-based
Washington Post columnist Jamal
Khashoggi
, who is feared to have been brutally killed inside
the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Khashoggi is a Saudi native and legal US resident who lived in
Virginia.

Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of Saudi Arabia and its leader,
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,
reportedly
feared that his native county would retaliate
against him. Saudi officials have denied his disappearance was a
result of foul-play on their part.

“In the aftermath of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, it runs the
risk of inviting other assaults on journalists both here and
across the world where they often face far greater threats,”
Mulholland added. “We hope decent people will denounce these
comments and that the President will see fit to apologize for
them.”

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