Sen. James Risch was a profile in Republican cowardice this week as the senator from Idaho tap danced to avoid criticizing Donald Trump’s conspiracy theory about a 75 year-old protester pushed to the ground by police in Buffalo.
Video footage has shown police officers shoving 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino to the sidewalk and bleeding from his head. Gugino’s lawyer says he has suffered a brain injury and, while no longer in intensive care, is still hospitalized and undergoing physical therapy.
WaPo’s Aaron Blake explains Trump’s inexcusable response:
President Trump on Tuesday morning passed along a bizarre conspiracy theory suggesting the protester who bled from his head after being pushed by Buffalo police and falling to the ground might have been involved in some kind of antifa plot.
The theory is all the more ugly considering its origins: In the tweet, Trump tagged the pro-Trump One America News Network. The OANN journalist behind the dubious conspiracy theory is Kristian Rouz, who has moonlighted as a reporter for the Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik News.
And yet, Risch still couldn’t bring himself to criticize or even contradict Trump on this.
Appearing on Fox’s Your World show, host Neil Cavuto began with a discussion about a possible new stimulus package (Risch said, “Let’s wait and see” and “we ought to be cautious”), followed by a question about Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Germany (“Well, I think everybody’s anxious about it … We’re all going to want to hear details about it.”)
Then, Cavuto asked about Gugino.
CAVUTO: Do you believe the president that this guy was a setup?
RISCH: Well, who knows? You can find about anything you want on the internet these days. I saw the video, like everybody else does. It’s, what, 10 seconds long or something like that.
RISCH: This is why we have courts. This is why we have investigations. I think all this will come out. I don’t know who the gentleman was. I don’t know what he was doing there. I don’t know what he had in his hand. I don’t know what the reality -- you hope the officers had body cameras on, so you can -- you can see what they were seeing as they approached the individual.
There’s a long ways to go before you make a judgment on that. I’m not ready to make a judgment one way or the other on it at this point.
Cavuto pressed the point that Trump had done what Risch had just said shouldn’t be done, i.e. make a judgment before investigation. And Risch still had nothing but praise for him:
CAVUTO: Well, the president did. I don’t mean to overstate this. And I’m thinking, you know, the guy did fall. He was bleeding at the back of his head.
CAVUTO: And so do you think that was responsible, when we really don’t know?
RISCH: Yes. You know, I -- uh-- Neil, you -- what you ought to do is give the president a call. He’s got, uh, strong feelings on a lot of things.
I enjoy his company. We exchange regularly. And, uh we haven’t talked about this. It may or may not come up as we go down the pike. But, look, I -- I have my view on it. He has his view on it. I think most Americans have a view. We’ll see if there’s more to come out on this ... and so everybody can reach a conclusion.
Cavuto wasn’t having it.
CAVUTO: All right, well, I’m taking a leap here that, if it were you, you wouldn’t say that.
RISCH: Well, I -- you know, I haven’t reached a conclusion yet.
So, no, I wouldn’t say what something is. Look, I was a prosecutor. I -- I prosecuted thousands of cases. And what I have learned is, you want to sift through the evidence really carefully before you move forward on something. Charging issues are always the most difficult there are.
As you proceed to trial, you better have your ducks in a row. But you want all the information before you reach the conclusion of where you want to take something.
CAVUTO: There’s a concept.
So Risch admitted in so many words Trump was wrong but was too timid to say it out loud.
You can watch Risch put loyalty to Trump over ethics and principles below, from the June 10, 2020 Your World. The discussion about Gugino begins at 3:40.
There’s no way to deny that what Trump tweeted has to be translated as follows:
“that old fart deliberately hit his head on the cement in order to make me – ME! the President of the USA! – look bad”.