Montana GOP Candidate Charged With Assault After ‘Body-Slamming’ Reporter

On the eve of Montana?s special election, Greg Gianforte, the millionaire Republican running for the state?s open congressional seat, was charged with misdemeanor assault after attacking a reporter for The Guardian on Wednesday. 

Guardian political reporter Ben Jacobs said Gianforte ?body slammed me and broke my glasses? after he asked a question about the Republican health care legislation.

In an audio recording posted by The Guardian, Jacobs can be heard asking Gianforte about the recently released Congressional Budget Office report on the Republican health care replacement bill. Then there?s a loud crash. 

 

?I?m sick and tired of you guys,? Gianforte says. ?The last time you came here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!? 

?Jesus Christ,? Jacobs said. ?You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.? 

?Get the hell out of here,? Gianforte says again.

?If you?d like me to get the hell out of here, I?d also like to call the police,? Jacobs says. 

A Fox News crew was in the room at Gianforte?s campaign headquarters in Bozeman when Jacobs walked in.

?Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,? reporter Alicia Acuna wrote on the Fox News website. She said the three-member team ?watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of ?I?m sick and tired of this!? 

Acuna added: ?To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.? She said the Fox crew had given statements to investigators.

Gianforte was cited for misdemeanor assault and ordered to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court. He faces a maximum of six months in a jail and a $500 fine.

Sheriff Brian Gootkin said the incident ?did not meet the Montana statutory elements for felony assault.? Gootkin also addressed a donation made to Gianforte?s campaign in the amount of $250 in March, saying the contribution ?had nothing to do with our investigation, which is now complete.?

MoveOn.org, a liberal public advocacy group, said late Wednesday it would run a ?five-figure,? last-minute campaign ad about the incident through the polling on Thursday. The minute-long video includes dramatic audio recorded during the altercation, then flashes the message: ?Greg Gianforte. Unfit to serve.?

Late Wednesday, two local withdrew their endorsements of Gianforte: the Billings Gazette and the Missoulian.

Alexis Levinson, a BuzzFeed reporter, saw part of the clash.

?This happened behind a half closed door, so I didn?t see it all, but here?s what it looked like from the outside,? Levinson wrote on Twitter. ?Ben walked into a room where a local tv crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte … All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben?s feet fly in the air as he hit the floor.?

Jacobs reported the attack to local police. The Gallatin County Sheriff?s Office confirmed in a statement late Wednesday that it was investigating an alleged assault involving Gianforte. It said the investigation is ?ongoing? and it would provide additional details ?when appropriate.? 

Gianforte?s office blamed ?liberal journalist? Jacobs for the confrontation. Spokesman Shane Scanlon said in a statement that Jacobs barged into an interview in a private office and ?aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg?s face and began asking badgering questions.?

After Jacobs refused to leave, Scanlon said, Gianforte ?attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg?s wrist and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It?s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene.? 

In an interview with MSNBC from the hospital, Jacobs called it ?the strangest moment? of his reporting career. 

?I don?t mind being blown off by politicians, and I also am always terribly uncomfortable being part of a story,? he told host Chris Hayes. ?And now it seems like I became the story.? 

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin, speaking to reporters at a press conference later on Wednesday night, pleaded with the community to stop calling his office?s dispatch center, and said he wouldn?t provide much information until the investigation is finished. Asked why charges were not filed at the scene, Gootkin said: ?Because we did not have all the information at that time.?

The high-profile incident on the eve of Election Day throws a contentious race into turmoil. Gianforte is locked in a tight race with Rob Quist, a banjo-playing folk musician who has never sought public office before.

Quist, asked to comment outside a campaign event, told reporters, ?I think that?s more a matter for law enforcement.? He brushed aside further questions. 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee called on Gianforte to drop out of the race. The GOP ?should not waste another minute before publicly denouncing their candidate and apologizing for the millions of dollars they spent on his behalf,? DCCC spokesman Tyler Law said in a statement.

Although Gianforte has led Quist in public polling, his lead has shrunk in recent weeks as Quist has tied him to the unpopular Republican health care bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month. Even as Gianforte reserved judgment on the bill in public, The New York Times obtained a recording of a call with Republican-leaning lobbyists in which Gianforte said he was ?thankful for? the bill?s passage. He later tried to walk back the comments, but Quist pilloried him for it in advertisements and on the campaign trail.

Last month, Gianforte issued an apology to the Billings Gazette?s editorial board after making comments during a campaign stop that included hand motions directed at a reporter ?as if he would like to wring his neck.?

Gianforte said the statement was meant as a ?joke? and that he fully supports the First Amendment, but his remarks did little to assuage the fears of local journalists.

?It was sickening to hear this contempt for journalists echoed in our own back yard,? The Missoulian wrote in an editorial.

News of Wednesday?s violence could be a blow that dooms Gianforte?s campaign, ensuring a Quist victory and a major win for Democrats nationally.

Progressive activists across the country have poured money into Quist?s race, seeing it as an opportunity to signal dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump in a state he won by 20 percentage points.

In the moments before the confrontation between Jacobs and Gianforte turned violent, the reporter can be heard asking the candidate to clarify his views on the GOP health care bill. A new Congressional Budget Office analysis of the legislation came out earlier in the day, presumably giving Gianforte information he needed to decide whether he supports it.

?You were waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill and it just came out,? Jacobs began.

?We?ll talk to you about that later,? Gianforte replied.

?Yeah but there?s not gonna be time,? Jacobs shot back. ?I?m just curious about it right now.?

?Speak with Shane please,? Gianforte said, referring to his spokesman.

Then the recording cuts to the sound of scuffling.

Listen to The Guardian?s recording of the clash below:

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Immigrant Mother Receives Pardon For Minor Driving Conviction, But Still Could Be Deported

WASHINGTON ? Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) pardoned an undocumented mother of two on Wednesday for a years-old conviction for driving without a license in the hope that it will help spare her from deportation.

But the fact that she is no longer defined as a criminal might not matter to the Trump administration. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained Liliana Cruz Mendez, the 30-year-old originally from El Salvador, last Thursday when she went to the agency for a routine check-in. ICE had repeatedly allowed her to remain in the U.S. in spite of a 2006 removal order for crossing the border illegally and a 2013 misdemeanor conviction for driving without a license, which she could not obtain because of her status.

Her case now becomes another test for President Donald Trump, who claims his focus is on criminals but has detained scores of non-criminals as well. Cruz Mendez can?t be defined as a criminal anymore ? the question is whether ICE cares.

The agency indicated after McAuliffe?s pardon announcement that nothing has changed.

?ICE took Ms. Cruz Mendez into custody based on a final order of removal issued by an immigration judge in April 2006,? agency spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell said in an email. ?Even without any criminal convictions, she is still subject to removal from the United States based on that final order of removal.?

Cruz Mendez?s supporters, from advocates to politicians, have not claimed she is not subject to removal. Instead, they argue she has contributed greatly to her community and should be allowed to remain in the U.S. with her husband and children.

?Taking Liliana away from her kids & husband won?t make VA safer,? McAuliffe tweeted after announcing his pardon. ?Feds need to focus on public safety threats & real immigration reform.?

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has advocated for Cruz Mendez?s relief, said afterward that he was ?very pleased but still cautious? because the pardon doesn?t change the deportation order, even if it takes away her conviction.

?The Trump administration and ICE seem determined to deport anyone who comes across their path who is in the country without papers,? Beyer told HuffPost. ?So the simple fact that she?s undocumented in the Trump mind makes her a criminal.?  

Cruz Mendez is seeking a stay of removal, which would allow her to remain in the country. Nick Katz of the advocacy group CASA, which is working on her case, said they are hopeful the pardon will help her receive that stay.

?It really weakens the foundation of ICE?s argument for why they were saying that she needs to be removed from the United States, and we hope this will weigh strongly in their consideration,? Katz said.

He said they plan to push governors to issue pardons in similar situations for immigration-related crimes in an effort to keep people out of deportation proceedings.

For now, Cruz remains in detention. Beyer said he hopes Trump can consider what deporting her would do to her children, noting that the president said he was moved by images of violence against children in Syria.

?Maybe he could be moved by the idea of a mother being separated from her children by thousands of miles for no credible reason,? he said. ?Nobody?s life is going to be helped by this, although many will be hurt.?

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Betsy DeVos: If States Discriminate Against LGBTQ Students, It’s Cool By Me

WASHINGTON ? Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Wednesday that states should have the flexibility to decide whether schools can discriminate against LGBTQ students ? even if those schools get federal money.

During a testy exchange in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) told DeVos about Lighthouse Christian Academy, a private school in Indiana that receives state voucher money but denies admission to students from families where there is ?homosexual or bisexual activity? or someone ?practicing alternate gender identity.? Clark asked DeVos, whose budget seeks a $250 million increase for projects that include vouchers for private schools, if she would step in if that Indiana school applied for such federal funding.

DeVos replied by saying she supports giving flexibility to states.

?For states who have programs that allow for parents to make choices, they set up the rules around that,? she said.

You would put the state flexibility over our students?
Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.)

Clark, who appeared baffled, pressed DeVos on whether she could see any situation in which she would overrule a school requesting federal voucher money ? if the school discriminated against students based on sexual orientation, race or special needs, for example. 

?The Office of Civil Rights and our Title IX protections are broadly applicable across the board,? DeVos said. ?But when it comes to parents making choices on behalf of their students?.?

?This isn?t about parents making choices. This is about use of federal dollars,? Clark interrupted. ?You would put the state flexibility over our students.?

?I think a hypothetical?? DeVos said.

?It?s not a hypothetical,? Clark snapped. ?It?s a real school.?

As they talked over each other, the chairman stepped in and gave DeVos a chance to fully answer Clark, whose time was up.

?The bottom line is we believe that parents are the best equipped to make choices for their children?s schooling and education decisions,? DeVos said. ?States and local communities are best equipped to make these decisions and framework.?

Clark managed to get in a parting comment: ?I am shocked that you cannot come up with one example of discrimination that you would stand up for students.?

Watch the full exchange above.

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Top House Intel Dem: Flynn Not Cooperating With Russia Probe, Subpoenas Coming

WASHINGTON ? The House intelligence committee is preparing to issue subpoenas against Michael Flynn after the former national security adviser denied a request to voluntarily turn over documents related to the committee?s Russia probe.

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said on Wednesday that the committee is prepared to use ?whatever compulsory process we need? to obtain information from Flynn if he does not cooperate with the subpoenas. He added that the committee could issue additional subpoenas if other witnesses fail to cooperate, but did not name additional individuals.

Citing the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Flynn?s lawyer said on Monday that Flynn would not comply with subpoenas from the Senate intelligence committee, which is conducting its own parallel investigation into Russia?s interference in the election and whether it colluded with President Donald Trump?s associates. The Senate committee responded with two additional subpoenas on Tuesday targeting Flynn?s businesses.

The House committee?s subpoenas ?will be designed to maximize our chance of getting the information that we need,? Schiff told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. ?We need to use whatever compulsory mechanism necessary to get the information he possesses ? the Fifth Amendment right not to provide materials or documents is limited,? he added.

Schiff said he is ?skeptical? that the committee would agree to grant Flynn immunity in the future in exchange for information.

The committee is also looking for ways to obtain documentation of Trump?s conversations with top intelligence and law enforcement officials involved in a separate federal Russia probe.

Trump implied earlier this month that he had ?tapes? of discussions with recently fired FBI Director James Comey that would be damaging to Comey. And the Washington Post reported earlier this week that Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers to push back on the FBI?s Russia investigation.

?That could be further evidence of an attempt to interfere with the investigation,? Schiff said of Trump?s reported request to Coats and Rogers. He also referred to past reports that the White House asked allies on Capitol Hill to refute negative press stories about Trump associates? ties to Russia. ?If all of this is part of a pattern by the White House of interference or worse, that?s something that we have to find out about and it?s something we have to stop,? he said.

Despite concerns about Trump interfering with ongoing investigations into his campaign, Schiff warned that it is premature for Democrats on Capitol Hill to push for impeachment.

?There?s a legal standard that needs to be met for impeachment and then there?s a very practical standard that has to be met,? Schiff said. Practically speaking, he continued, impeachment is only possible if Republican lawmakers and the general public believe Trump is unfit for office.

?If the Republicans in Congress or people at large in the country feel this is simply a way to nullify an election that others didn?t agree with, then you?re not going to meet the practical standards necessary,? Schiff said. 

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Miley Cyrus Dedicates Her ‘Voice’ Performance To Ariana Grande And Manchester

It was an emotional evening during ?The Voice? ” target=”_blank”>Season 12 finale on Tuesday as stars like Miley Cyrus and Usher dedicated their performances to their friend Ariana Grande and all the victims of Monday?s Manchester Arena tragedy.

Cyrus, who will return as a ?Voice? coach this fall alongside Jennifer Hudson, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine, sang her new hit ?Malibu? after offering her condolences to Grande and ?everyone that experienced that horrific attack.?  

?Our hearts are with you,? she said. 

Former ?Voice? coach Usher also performed a song for Manchester with winner Chris Blue. The pair sang a stirring rendition of R.E.M.?s ?Everybody Hurts,? bringing audience members to their feet. 

The music community is reeling following the terror explosion at Grande?s Manchester show, which killed 22 people and injured 59.

Artists took to Twitter this week to share support for the ?Love Me Harder? singer, who posted a statement herself on the social media site. 

Below, more tweets from Grande?s fellow performers:

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