Trump thinks twice about paying legal fees of violent supporters

March 15, 2016

A Trump supporter (R) yells at a demonstrator after Donald Trump cancelled his rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago March 11, 2016. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump rowed back Tuesday on his glib promise to pay the legal fees of supporters who rough up protesters at his campaign rallies, acknowledging that such support might encourage violence.

Trump told ABC’s “Good Morning America” he had only said he would look into paying the legal fees of a 78-year-old white man who punched a young black man at a Trump rally in North Carolina two weeks ago.

“I never said I was going to pay for fees,” Trump said as five key states held presidential nominating contests in the race for the 2016 Republican nomination.

Asked if offering to pay such fees would send a message he was condoning violence, Trump said no but then backed away: “Maybe so and maybe that’s why I wouldn’t do it. I don’t condone violence. I looked, and I watched it, and I’m going to make a decision.”

The supporter, John McGraw was charged with assault and later with communicating a threat after he was seen on video saying he enjoyed hitting “that loudmouth” and threatening “to kill him” next time.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Trump said the man had gotten “carried away” and that he had instructed his staff to look into paying the fees.

Trump, a former reality TV star, canceled a rally in Chicago on Friday for security reasons after thousands of protesters entered the venue. The next night, a man tried to jump the stage during a Trump rally in Dayton, Ohio.

The New York billionaire has been accused of fomenting discord with divisive language on immigrants and Muslims and   encouraging his supporters to confront protesters.

At a Feb. 1 rally, Trump warned the crowd about protesters carrying tomatoes.

“So if you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Okay? Just knock the hell—  I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise. It won’t be so much ’cause the courts agree with us too.”

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