UPDATED, 5:23 PM: A North Carolina sheriff’s office now says it will not file charges of inciting a riot against Donald Trump and his campaign. “The evidence does not meet the requisites of the law as established under the relevant North Carolina statute and case law to support a conviction of the crime of inciting a riot,” the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement released hours its original statement (read it here) said it was weighing such charges.
PREVIOUSLY, 2:52 PM: In perfect keeping with this presidential race, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina said today it is investigating whether to charge Donald Trump or his campaign with inciting a riot in connection with that sucker-punch to a protester last week at one of Trump’s “love fests.”
In a statement, the sheriff’s office said it’s still weighing “the potential of whether there was conduct on the part of Mr. Trump or the Trump campaign which rose to the level of inciting a riot.” TV News networks lapped it up, after initial confusion in which the sheriff’s office said in a statement it had considered looking into filing a charge against the candidate or his campaign, but had decided against.
“Our investigation is not complete as to the incidents of Wednesday, March 9, 2016,” when Trump held his rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the office clarified this afternoon.
Police arrested and charged 78-year-old John McGraw with assaulting protester Rakeem Jones. McGraw was videotaped hitting Jones in the face as Jones was being ejected from the rally by authorities. McGraw’s subsequent interview with Inside Edition, in which he boasted that next time he might “have to kill” Jones, has the sheriff’s office also mulling more charges against the Trump supporter. Trump has said he will pay McGraw’s legal fees.
Cumberland County Sheriff Earl R. Butler is a registered Democrat, CNN reports, citing his official resume.
Covering Trump’s improbable race to the lead among GOP White House hopefuls, TV news operations have shown him at his rallies reacting to protesters in the hall, saying, “throw them out,” “knock the crap out of them,” and reminiscing that in the old days they “used to be carried out on a stretcher.” And, of one protester, Trump said, “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
In recent days, Trump’s GOP rivals have joined Democratic candidates for the White House in condemning Trump’s rally rhetoric. The GOP’s rivals say he bears responsibility for the violence that has erupted at his clambakes. Trump, in turn, has blamed the protesters he says are throwing the first punches, which he says is not being shown by left-leaning media. Trump blamed Dem candidate Bernie Sanders for Friday’s violence at Trump’s scrubbed Chicago rally.
“We have a major candidate for president of the United States, Donald Trump, who is literally inciting violence among his supporters,” Sanders says at today’s town hall on MSNBC. “When he says that he is prepared to pay the legal fees of somebody who sucker punches somebody, what he is really essentially saying is, ‘Go, go– go do it, supporters. Go beat up people’,” Sanders tells Chuck Todd:
On Sunday, Sanders called Trump a “pathological liar” during CNN’s Democratic debate, to which Hillary Clinton contributed: “What Trump has done is like a case of political arson. He has lit the fire and then throws up his hands and says he shouldn’t be held responsible.
“He is trafficking in hate and fear,” Clinton said. “He actually incites violence in the way he urges his audience on, talking about punching people, offering to pay legal bills.”
But, HBO’s John Oliver maybe said it best on Sunday, shortly after CNN’s debate ended: “Let’s be honest: a Trump rally being canceled due to violence is THE most predictable things to happen in this campaign since Donald Trump mentioning the size of his dick.”