Update: And the weirdness keeps building. Since this post initially went up Monday, the New York Times and others pointed to landscaping as the root cause. The Times cited three Kentucky Republicans who said the attack was the result of a landscaping dispute, though the details were still sketchy.
By Wednesday, Paul and his chief strategist, Doug Stafford, were apparently calling the landscaping theory into question, both tweeting a link to a Breitbart story that casts doubt on it. Neither Paul nor Stafford elaborated further.
Paul also tweeted a link to a similar story from the Washington Examiner which happens to include plenty of hinting that this might have been a politically oriented attack -- in contrast to what the accused man's lawyer has said.
And now Stafford says that the attack came out of nowhere and that the Pauls hadn't spoken to Boucher, who pleaded not guilty Thursday, in "many" years. Here's his statement:
As to reports of a longstanding dispute with the attacker, the Pauls have had no conversations with him in many years. The first "conversation" with the attacker came after Sen. Paul's ribs were broken. This was not a “fight”, it was a blindside, violent attack by a disturbed person. Anyone claiming otherwise is simply uninformed or seeking media attention."
But that leads to the question: Why hadn't Paul spoken to his next-door neighbor in that long? Did they have disagreements that led to a shutdown in communication -- and possibly the attack last week? That's still unclear.
Meanwhile, an FBI spokesman said Thursday the bureau is still reviewing the Paul incident to see if there were any violations of federal law.
A U.S. senator was allegedly assaulted three days ago, and the more we learn about it, the stranger it becomes.
Since Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was attacked on Friday, we've found out that the accused party is his next-door neighbor in a gated community in Bowling Green, Ky. The neighbor, Rene Boucher, has confirmed that he tackled Paul. We've also learned that Paul sustained more severe injuries than previously known — including five broken ribs, three of which were displaced fractures, meaning the bone is fully broken and the two sides no longer line up — and that they will require months of recovery. Police had initially said that Paul sustained minor injuries, and as The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe writes, the severity of those injuries could lead to felony charges against Boucher, rather than the current misdemeanor charge.
The motive is still unclear, though — and pregnantly so, given the accused has basically admitted to the attack.
After some right-wing outlets noted that the neighbor appears to have socialist tendencies, some suggested the attack might be politically motivated. In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a congressional GOP baseball practice earlier this year — before which the shooter asked if the members on the field were Republicans — that narrative clearly had some draw.
But, apparently in response to those theories, Boucher's lawyer, Matthew J. Baker, issued a statement Monday assuring that this had “absolutely nothing to do with either’s politics or political agendas.”
Then he added that it was “a very regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial.”
And then he added that Boucher hoped the two men could “get back to being neighbors as quickly as possible.”
Okay . . .
So it's a “trivial” matter, but apparently he can't say what was so “trivial.” Is it because the reason is embarrassing, because it might somehow be more incriminating, or what? It's also somewhat more difficult to believe such serious injuries would result from such a “trivial” dispute. And the line about them resuming as neighbors “as quickly as possible” is a bit odd. I'm guessing Paul doesn't exactly feel the same way right now.
Paul's office isn't clarifying exactly what happened either, for what it's worth, but a statement from Paul's chief strategist doesn't exactly downplay it. "It is a pending, serious criminal matter involving state and federal authorities," Doug Stafford said. "We won’t have any further comments at this time."
The wording there — “involving state and federal authorities” — is also somewhat intriguing. Why are the federal authorities going to be involved? We only know so far of the arrest warrant in Kentucky. Is it just because Paul is a U.S. senator and they are inherently involved? Federal law, for what it's worth, makes attacking federal officials like members of Congress punishable by up to 10 years in prison if "personal injury results."
Here is a repost of arrest warrant for Rand Paul incident. This one has redactions. Sincere apologies about missing that last time pic.twitter.com/eDMEOy7hGs
— Sam Stein (@samstein) November 6, 2017
There are a lot more questions than answers right now. And the whole thing seems to be getting more opaque rather than less.
Devlin Barrett contributed to this post.