GOP lawmakers say they haven't seen Trump's Martin Gugino tweet


  • President Donald Trump kicked off Tuesday by spreading a baseless conspiracy theory accusing a 75-year-old protester who was attacked by police officers of being part of antifa.
  • Several Republican lawmakers who were asked about the tweet said they hadn’t seen it and refused to weigh in even after reporters explained to them what was in it.
  • “I didn’t see it,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN’s Manu Raju. “You’re telling me about it. I don’t read Twitter. I only write on it.”
  • Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told Raju, “You know, a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”
  • Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner told Politico he hadn’t seen the tweet and did not want to look at it.
  • Sen. John Thune of South Dakota broke from the pack and acknowledged to Raju that Trump had made a “serious accusation,” adding that it “should only be made with facts and evidence, and I haven’t seen any yet.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump kicked off Tuesday by spreading a baseless conspiracy theory accusing a 75-year-old protester who was assaulted by police officers of being part of antifa.

The president, without evidence, suggested that the protester, Martin Gugino, was “an ANTIFA provocateur” who was trying to interfere with police equipment before officers in Buffalo, New York, violently shoved him to the ground during a protest against police brutality last week.

A graphic video shows the man bleeding from his ear after he was attacked.

Several Republican senators who were asked about the tweet said they hadn’t seen it and refused to weigh in even when told what was in the tweet.

“I didn’t see it,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the interim chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s Manu Raju. “You’re telling me about it. I don’t read Twitter. I only write on it.”

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told Raju, “You know, a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner told Politico he hadn’t seen the tweet and did not want to look at it, adding that he was focused on a bill being debated on the Senate floor and was in a rush to get to Capitol Hill.

Sen. John Thune of South Dakota broke from the pack and acknowledged to Raju that Trump had made a “serious accusation,” adding that it “should only be made with facts and evidence, and I haven’t seen any yet.”

Asked whether the president should stop making such allegations, Thune said, “Well, I think that’s a given.”

Thune added, according to Raju: “But most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the president’s tweets. That’s a daily exercise … Like I said of what I seen, saw the tweet, saw the video. That’s a serious accusation.”

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney also weighed in on Trump’s tweet, telling reporters: “I saw the tweet. It was a shocking thing to say, and I won’t dignify it with any further comment.”

Politico’s Burgess Everett said that when he showed Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski the printed-out tweet, she gasped.

“Oh lord. Ugh,” Murkowski said. “Again, why would you fan the flames? That’s all I’m going to say.”

Fifty-seven Buffalo police officers resigned en masse on Friday after two colleagues were suspended without pay following the incident.

As of Tuesday morning, when Trump tweeted, Gugino was still hospitalized in “serious but stable condition,” his attorney told WGRZ, an NBC affiliate in Buffalo.

The president, senior Justice Department officials, and Republican lawmakers have repeatedly suggested that antifa is using the demonstrations against police brutality to stoke riots and incite violence.

But a closer examination of media reports, public records, and social media shows little evidence of a widespread or coordinated effort by antifa to weaponize the protests. Law-enforcement veterans and experts in disinformation have also told Business Insider that the allegations are more of a bogeyman for the right wing than indicative of a credible threat.

On May 30, the president accused “ANTIFA and the Radical Left” of sparking riots, adding, “Don’t lay the blame on others!” The next day, following a wave of violence during protests in Washington, DC, Trump announced that the US “will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.”

That day, Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that “the violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida echoed the president, tweeting that people who became violent or committed other crimes at demonstrations were part of antifa and should be hunted down like terrorists. (Twitter flagged Gaetz’s tweet as glorifying violence but determined it was in the public’s interest to keep the tweet viewable; users can no longer like, retweet, or reply to it.)

Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton struck a similar tone, writing in a controversial New York Times op-ed article on Wednesday that “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa” were responsible for starting riots during the protests to exploit George Floyd’s death “for their own anarchic purposes.” (The Times later determined that Cotton’s op-ed fell short of its editorial standards and said it should not have been published.)





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