Video from Tuesday evening’s Florida rally definitively shows Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbing Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields’s arm as she attempted to ask the candidate a question following his speech. Despite the Trump camp’s outright denial that any such altercation occurred, viewers can see at the 10-second mark that Lewandowski reached with his left arm for Fields’s left arm, briefly grabbing her. Lewandowski’s grasp then broke before he reached again, this time on her left arm, which is where Fields showed she was bruised.
Fields has now filed a criminal complaint. The Trump campaign and Trump himself have accused Fields of making up the incident and falsely asserted there is no evidence (in addition to the video and an eyewitness, there is an audiotape). If they choose to repeat those untruths to the police or a judge, there will be potential legal consequences.
We are, shockingly, talking about the front-runner for the nomination of a once-great party. The Republican National Committee, having thrown its lot in with Trump, is silent, unwilling to call out a thug poised to take control of the party. Party officials’ reticence is a blot on their professional reputations.
Denying the evidence — and denying there is evidence — is the conduct of, well, the despots Trump speaks of in admiring tones. It is something one would expect of Vladimir Putin and the Communist Chinese whom he has praised as “strong” — before denying “strong” is a compliment.
As if that were not bad enough, after denying in Thursday’s debate that he incites violence, Trump on Friday responded to the latest incident in which a Trump supported punched a protester: “You know what? The audience swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate. He was swinging. He was hitting people. And the audience hit back. And that’s what we need a little bit more of.”
Some object to comparisons between Trump and 20th-century fascists. Fine. Perhaps Trump’s ideology is more akin to Putin’s. His willingness nevetheless to look the American people in the eye and deny the obvious is far more mendacious than Bill Clinton’s word parsing. “Better than a dictator” does not make him fit for polite society, let alone the White House.
No one can say the real Trump is hidden from view. We know exactly what he and his henchmen are like. He is not for the little guy and gal; if he were, he would have taken action against his campaign manager for roughing up a woman. He explicit call for violence is merely evidence of his willingness to resort to thuggery to get his way, an ominous sign for someone who is running for an office that would have control of the IRS, the FBI, the armed services and more.
He has made fools and enablers of people including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose judgment in vouching for him now shows them to be unfit for office as well. Once again, the refusal of the GOP opponents to raise the incident at Thursday night’s debate suggests they too lack moral backbone.
It does not take a political genius to construct for the Democrats a campaign against Trump. All they need do is show film of the incident and Trump claiming, like any common domestic abuser, that the woman made it up. There is some segment of the GOP that is willing to ignore, excuse or even embrace Trump’s conduct. The rest of the party and the country have been warned and must defend our democracy from this monstrously flawed individual.
UPDATE: Tim Miller, spokesman for Our Principles PAC, emails: “A culture of violence is pervasive within Donald Trump’s campaign, aimed at anyone who dare challenge him. This is a very dangerous trait for someone who wants to be President of the United States and will have the levers of government in their hands.” He adds, “But the reality is Corey will not be fired because this is who Donald surrounds himself with purposefully. We must stop them at the ballot box.”