President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted a claim that a 75-year-old Buffalo man pushed to the ground by police last week may have been an “ANTIFA provocateur” who was part of a “set up.”
Trump may have gotten the theory from One America News, a conservative media outlet he has promoted on his Twitter feed. Possibly citing an OAN report, Trump said that the man, Martin Gugino, was trying to scan police equipment and black out communications.
“I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?” Trump wrote.
Gugino’s lawyer said Monday that he is still hospitalized and in “serious but stable condition,” adding on Tuesday that he was “at a loss” as to why the president would “make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations”:
Two police officers have been charged with felony assault and have pleaded not guilty after a video showed them shoving Gugino, a longtime peace activist and a reported member of the Catholic Worker movement, last Thursday night. The video shows Gugino bleeding from the head after being knocked to the ground.
Demonstrators have protested in cities across the U.S. following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck even after he stopped responding.
Last week, Attorney General William Barr said the federal government has evidence that the antifa — short for anti-fascist — movement had “hijacked” protests. While Trump has said the U.S. would designate anti-fascism activists as a terrorist organization, his legal authority to do so is unclear.
On Capitol Hill, Trump’s tweet was met with a mixture of resignation and disgust by Republican senators talking to reporters.
“I saw the tweet. It was a shocking thing to say and I won’t dignify it with any further comment,” said Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. Romney has often been at odds with Trump publicly, though he has continued to vote for Trump’s judicial nominees, which are a White House priority.
Sen. Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, who Trump said he planned to campaign against, said “Oh lord” when shown the tweet. Asked to comment, Murkowski said, “Why would you fan the flames? That’s all I’m going to say. Thanks.”
Indiana Sen. Mike Braun was more muted in his reaction. “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 going to be, but it doesn’t shock me that they come out often,” he said.
Jonathan Nicholson contributed to this story.