President Trump and Vice President Pence both stayed silent Thursday in the wake of a misdemeanor assault citation being filed against the Republican candidate in Montana’s special congressional election — a hopeful whom Trump and Pence have urged voters to support.
In a robo-call on the eve of Election Day, Trump referred to the GOP contender Greg Gianforte, who later allegedly “body-slammed” a reporter, as “my friend” and “a wonderful guy.”
“He knows how to win. He’s going to win for you,” Trump said in the recorded message, which was paid for by the National Republican Committee. “That's Greg Gianforte. You'll be very proud of him for years to come. Thanks a lot!”
Pence traveled to Montana two weeks ago to campaign for Gianforte, telling supporters in Billings that “we need more allies in Congress to make America great again, and we need Greg Gianforte.”
Pence also recorded a subsequent robo-call in which he said that “President Trump and I need Greg working with us in Washington to cut your taxes, secure our borders and protect your Second Amendment rights.”
Requests for comments from representatives of Trump were not immediately returned Thursday. A Pence spokesman declined to comment.
Gianforte was cited late Wednesday for misdemeanor assault after witnesses said he “body-slammed” a reporter for the Guardian who had been trying to ask him about the GOP’s health-care bill.
Gianforte faces Democrat Rob Quist in Thursday’s special election to replace Ryan Zinke, who became Trump’s interior secretary. Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., has also campaigned in Montana for Gianforte.
Before the incident, more than 200,000 of the 700,000 eligible voters in Montana had already cast early absentee ballots.
David Weigel contributed to this report.