White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is rejecting accusations that President Trump floated a ‘baseless conspiracy theory’ when he tweeted that a 75-year old cancer sufferer pushed by police may have been using his cell phone to obtain their radio signatures.
McEnany faced the assembled media Wednesday for the first time since Trump claimed on Twitter that the man,Martin Gugino, may have been part of a ‘set up’ and may even have deliberately manipulated his fall to the pavement in a way to mischaracterize police.
‘It’s not a baseless conspiracy no not at all. I won’t acknowledge that,’ McEnany said, when pressed repeatedly about Trump’s tweet.
‘It’s not a baseless conspiracy no not at all. I won’t acknowledge that,’ said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, as she defended a tweet by President Trump that a 75-year-old man pushed by Buffalo police’fell harder than was pushed’ and it ‘could be a set up’
‘The president was asking questions about an interaction and a video clip that he saw and the president has the right to ask those,’ she said, referencing video assembled by right win One America News that Trump referenced in the explosive tweet Tuesday.
‘The president does not regret standing up for law enforcement men and women across this country,’ she said.
She characterized Trump’s tweet which also raised the possibility without evidence that Gugino was involved with antifa as part of the obligation of media members and others to ask questions and parse information.
‘In this tweet that he sent out he was in no way condoning violence. He was not passing judgement on these two officers in particular. But what he was saying is this: When we see a brief snippet of a video, it’s incumbent upon reporters and those who are surveying a situation to ask questions,’ she said.
Pressed on whether Trump should assemble facts before firing off a tweet, McEnany protested: ‘The president did have facts.’
She said the nation is going through a moment when people are ‘reflexively anti-police officer.’ Earlier, McEnany backed up Trump in comments to Fox News.
‘The president does not condone violence. He wants to see the appropriate amount of force used in any given situation, including this one. But he believes that the officers have a right to be heard,’ she said.
She was also pressed on practical aspects of his claim that Gugino may have ‘fallen harder than pushed’ by two police officers.
‘How does that work in terms of physics?’ McEnany was asked.
‘The president raised several questions based on a report he saw. He has a right to ask those questions,’ she responded. ‘And where he stands is squarely with law enforcement.’
McEnany doubled down even as a few Republican senators distanced themselves from the comments and others avoided comment claiming they had not even seen Trump’s tweet.
‘Thepresident was raising questions based on a report that he saw’ when he retweeted a report claiming the man,Martin Gugino, might be an ANTIFA provocateur,’ McEnany tolda panel of interviewers on ‘Fox and Friends’ Wednesday morning.
Trump also claimed based on watching video in the report that Gugino ‘fell harder than was pushed.’ The man is now out of the ICU but still in hospital following the incident, according to his lawyer. He was already undergoing treatment for cancer.
‘They’re questions that need to be asked,’ said McEnany. ‘In every case we can’t jump on one side without looking at all the facts at play.
‘This individual had some very questionable tweets some profanity-laden tweets about police officers.’
‘The president was raising questions based on a report that he saw,’ White House press secretary Keyleigh McEnany said in an interview Wednesday where she defended President Trump’s tweet about a 75-year-old man shoved to the ground by Buffalo police
‘This individual had some very questionable tweets, some-profanity laden tweets about police officers,’ McEnany said of Gugino, who was knocked to the ground by police officers in Buffalo
Martin Gugino, a longtime peace activist from Amherst, had been at a protest at Niagara Square near Buffalo City Hall when he was pushed. He hit his head on the ground causing it to bleed
‘Of course no one condones any sort of violence,’ McEnany said.
‘We need the appropriate amount of force used in any interaction. But there are a lot of questions in that case. In fact, you had 56 police officers who resigned in protest of how their fellow officers were treated.’
She was referencing a tweet Gugino posted the day before he got pushed that said ‘F*** the police.’
Her mention of 56 officers resigning was an apparent reference to all 57 members of theBuffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team resigning from the squad last Friday in support of the two colleagues who were suspended over the incident and are now being prosecuted.
‘The president was just raising some of those questions,’ she added.
The president had said that he agreed with at least part of what was put forward by the broadcast a network he regularly touts. ‘I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?’ Trump asked.
The report he referenced was on the One America News Network. The pro-Trump outlet picked the story up from the Conservative Treehouse website, which made the claim based on slowed video footage that Gugino was seeking to scan frequency information from police officers with his phone.
The OANN correspondent identifies himself as Kristian Rouz, who has been revealed to simultaneously be working for Kremlin-backed Sputnik news. The Daily Beast previously reportedthat Rouz was born in Siberia,graduated from Novosibirsk State University, and moved to the U.S. in 2017.
The report Trump cited and McEnany justifiedclaims that the incident ‘could be the result of a false flag provocation by far left group Antifa.’
It cites information that appeared on the Conservative Treehouse blog which identifies Mr Gugino as a ‘well-known activist.’
The report used close-up, slowed footage of the incident while voice-over touting possible connections to Antifa, a group Trump has said wants to label as domestic terrorist organization.
An elderly man was seen approaching Buffalo police officers in riot gear outside of City Hall on Thursday
McEnany doubled down on President Trump’s tweet about the 75-year-old man pushed down by Buffalo police
McEnany defended the president during an appearance on ‘Fox and Friends’
Her Fox interviewers showed no expression while McEnany defended the president’s tweet.
Co-host Brian Kilmeade asked: ‘Kayleigh what about the timing of it in the middle of the George Floyd ceremonies,’ referencing the funeral Tuesday, the last of several events to commemorate the man who died during arrest by Minneapolis police. It got wall-to-wall television coverage amid the uproar over Trump’s tweet.
‘Look the president has acknowledged so many times and rightfully so the injustice with George Floyd,’ she said. She continued that Trump was ‘raising some questions some legitimate ones about that particular interaction, and it’s his prerogative to do so.’
Kelly Zarcone, attorney for Mr Gugino told TMZ that President Trump is wrong to draw links between her client and the radical left group, adding that Mr Gugino had been seriously injured.
Zarcone said:’Martin is out of ICU but still hospitalized and truly needs to rest. Martin has always been a peaceful protester because he cares about today’s society.’
She added: ‘[Mr Gugino] is also a typical Western New Yorker who loves his family. No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise, so we are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.
Gugino texted USA Today after being asked about Trump’s tweet. ‘No comment other than Black lives matter. Just out of the ICU. Should recover eventually. Thx,’ he wrote.
Trump rival former Vice President Joe Biden pounced on the Trump tweet in more detail Tuesday.
‘My Dad used to say there’s no greater sin than the abuse of power. Whether it’s an officer bloodying a peaceful protester or a President defending him with a conspiracy theory he saw on TV. I’m a Catholic just like Martin,’ Biden said.
‘Our faith says that we can’t accept either,’ he added.
Aaron Torgalski (left) and Robert McCabe (right) pictured in their mugs. They were each charged with one count of assault in the second degree in a court hearing Saturday morning over the shocking incident that left peaceful protester Martin Gugino in a ‘serious condition’ in hospital
Clinton retweeted a post referencing some backstory to the conspiracy theory
Kristian Rouz, who was previously revealed to have been working for Kremlin-backed Sputnik, produced the segment that Trump retweeted
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ripped the president Tuesday for issuing a ‘reckless, irresponsible, mean, crude if there was ever a reprehensible, dumb comment.’
‘And from the president of the United States at this moment of anguish and anger. He pours gasoline on the fire. If there was ever, if he ever feels a moment of decency, he should apologize fr that tweet,’ Cuomo added.
Prominent Republican senators turned down the chance to criticize the president when asked about his tweet. ‘I didn’t see it. You’re telling me about it. I don’t read Twitter. I only write on it, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN. Added Texas Sen. John Cornyn: ‘You know, a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.’
Former Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona did weigh in. ‘This was a 75 year-old-man shoved to the ground, left bleeding from a head wound. Trafficking in conspiracy theories like these is beneath your office, Mr President,’ Flake wrote.
‘Most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the president’s tweets,’ said South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, a Senate party leader.
Thune added: ‘It’s a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence. And I havent seen any yet.’
Utah Republican Mitt Romney, who is now a persistent Trump critic, said he had seen it and called it ‘shocking’ and added: ‘I won’t dignify it with any further comment.’
Asked about the tweet, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) responded: ‘Oh lord.’
Martin Gugino’s history of peaceful activism
Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old man who got pushed to the ground by Buffalo police and who Trump accused of possibly being in on a ‘set up’ has a long history of activism for a range of causes.
The resident of Amherst in upstate New York outside Buffalo has been involved with the Western New York Peace Center.
‘He’s a gentle person who really believes that he must stand up for what he thinks is right,’ his friend Terrence Bisson told the Buffalo News.
He has advocated for closing the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, climate change, and other issues. He has protested the treatment of child immigrants at the southern border.
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown called him an ‘agitator’ and President Donald Trump claimed after watching a video where Buffalo police shoved him that Gugino ‘fell harder than was pushed.’
Friends of the retired computer programmer described Gugino as a devout Catholic and a graduate of Canisius High School, a private Jesuit school in Buffalo, who is a passionate advocate for multiple causes on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Gugino spent his retirement lending a hand to multiple causes, among them Black Lives Matter.
Martin Gugino pictured with actor Ed Asner
‘Martin has a passion for social justice,’ said Mark Colville, who runs Amistad Catholic Worker in New Haven, Connecticut, and has known Gugino for years. ‘When he sees wrong he wants to be involved in making it right.’
Colville said Gugino made multiple trips from his home in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst to New Haven – a six-and-a-half-hour drive- to help prepare and serve meals at Amistad, a house of hospitality that describes its mission as ‘follow(ing) Jesus in seeking justice for the poor.’
Gugino never wanted to draw attention to his work, Colville said. He’s a private person who lived alone. He cared for his mother until she died, and he recently lost his sister, too.
The two have worked for years to advocate for the closing of Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. detention camp in Cuba where terrorism suspects could be detained without process.
Gugino is active in Witness Against Torture, an organization formed in 2005 to protest the treatment of detainees on the base. Each January, group members travel to Washington, D.C., to fast and hold vigil outside the Department of Justice.
Much of the work was done on behalf of Muslim prisoners, many of whom were picked up by the CIA and taken to Guantanamo after the 9/11 terrorist strikes.
‘People, including Martin, made connections between their own faith and the faith of people detained because of their own faith,’ said Matt Daloisio, a New York state public defender and one of the organizers of Witness Against Torture.
Daloisio and several others say they’ve been texting Gugino in the hospital and hes been responding with emoji hearts rather than texts.
Tom Casey, a retired civil engineer from Buffalo and a local coordinator for Pax Christi, an international Catholic peace movement, said the idea that Gugino is a provocateur is ludicrous. Gugino was certainly opinionated, Casey said, but always respectful of others.
‘I have never heard him use a vile or angry word against anybody and I spent a lot of time talking to him,’ Casey said.
Gugino was also active on behalf of Black Lives Matter. After the 2014 killing of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy who was shot by a police officer, Gugino traveled to Cleveland to meet with Rices parents. In 2016, Gugino participated in a protest in front of the Justice Department in which demonstrators called for murder charges against the officer who shot Rice.
He is also active with the Western New York Peace Center and PUSH Buffalo, a coalition working on affordable housing.
This fall, Jericho Road, a community health clinic in Buffalo, featured Gugino in its newsletters ‘donor spotlight.’ Asked why he gives, Gugino wrote: ‘In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, and give drink to the thirsty.’
THE CONSPIRACY THEORIES PUSHED BY TRUMP
Claiming a 75-year-old peace protester pushed to the ground by police is an ANTIFA provocateur who was trying to jam their radios is the latest in a long line of Trump’s conspiracy theories. Others from his political career include:
TED CRUZ’S FATHER SHOT JFK
In May 2016, before Cruz dropped out of the 2016 presidential race, Trump seized on a National Enquirer story which claimed to show the Texas senator’s father Rafael Cruz having breakfast with Lee Harvey Oswald.
‘His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot,’ he told Fox News. ‘I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this? Right? Prior to his being shot. And nobody even brings it up.’
He later said he was only highlighting the National Enquirer, adding: ‘They got OJ. They got [John] Edwards.’Cruz’s campaign said the picture was not of Rafael Cruz.
MARCO RUBIO AND TED CRUZ CAN’T BE PRESIDENT
Trump retweeted a theory that because both Rubio’s parents were born in Cuba and Cruz’s father was born there too, they could not become president. Trump’s mother was also not a natural-born citizen so if the theory was true, he would be ineligible.
JOE SCARBOROUGH MURDERED HIS ‘INTERN’
Trump has recently repeatedly accused his friend-turned-archenemy, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough of playing an unspecified role in the tragic death of Lori Klausitus. She worked for the Morning Joe host when he was a Florida Republican congressman in 2001 and was found dead at one of his offices early one morning.
An autopsy said she had an undiagnosed heart condition which caused her to fall and strike her head; Scarborough was in Washington D.C. at the time. But Trump has latched on a debunked theory he was involved and demanded a ‘cold case’ investigation, to the distress of her widower and family almost 20 years later.
THE CLINTONS KILLED JEFFREY EPSTEIN
In the wake of the discovery of the pedophile financier hanging in his cell in a New York federal prison, Trump retweeted a claim that he was part of a ‘Clinton kill list’ because of the former president and first lady’s long association with him. Trump’s own attorney general Bill Barr has said repeatedly that the death was suicide. Trump was also a long-term Epstein associate.
WINDMILLS CAUSE CANCER
Trump has repeatedly claimed that windmills used to generate electricity somehow cause cancer, apparently through the ‘noise’ from them. There is no known scientific theory that lies at the base of his claim but it makes frequent appearances at his free-wheeling campaign rallies.