Donald Trump claims a former Breitbart reporter made unwanted physical contact with him before his campaign manager allegedly grabbed the reporter’s arm – and a member of Trump’s Secret Service detail is backing up the GOP front-runner’s story.
After claiming former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields touched him, Trump asked Tuesday, “Can I press charges?”
As WND reported, Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, 41, is accused of accosting Fields at the March 8 rally after she purportedly touched Trump’s arm. Lewandowski was formally charged with misdemeanor battery Tuesday. Fields filed a police report three days after the incident in Jupiter, Florida, and claimed the encounter left bruises on her arm.
Lewandowski turned himself in to Jupiter, Florida, police early in the morning.
According to a report in London’s Daily Mail, a member of Trump’s Secret Service detail, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Fields touched Trump two times, and she was ordered by agents to stop before Lewandowski pulled her away.
“She crossed in between agents and our protectee after being told not to,” the agent reportedly told the Daily Mail.
He didn’t indicate why Secret Service agents didn’t intervene when Fields allegedly touched Trump.
In security footage of the incident, Fields cannot be seen making physical contact with Trump. However, the video does appear to show Trump pulling his arm away from Fields. And Trump posted an image of Fields apparently brushing his elbow with her hand at the event.
The footage also clearly shows Lewandowski reaching for the reporter’s arm.
But it doesn’t show Fields being nearly thrust to the floor, as she claimed.
“We supplied those tapes and those tapes to me are very conclusive,” Trump told reporters Tuesday.
Security footage of the incident can be seen below:
Fields took to Twitter to showcase a photograph of what she said was her bruised arm in the incident.
She shortly after resigned from Breitbart, claiming the news organization did not do enough to support her allegations. Another Breitbart staffer, Ben Shapiro, the editor-at-large, also resigned in protest, saying higher-ups in the organization “abandoned” Fields “in order to protect Trump’s bully campaign manager,” the Palm Beach Post reported.
Lewandowski, meanwhile, when alerted to Fields’ claims, took to Twitter to say to her: “You are totally delusional. I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.”
Police continued to investigate the incident, even after Fields left her position at Breitbart.
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On Tuesday, they acted on a report filed by Fields and charged Lewandowski with the misdemeanor. The Trump campaign, meanwhile, issued a full denial of the charges.
In an emailed statement, the campaign said: “Mr. Lewandowski was issued a Notice to Appear and given a court date. He was not arrested. Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court. He is completely confident that he will be exonerated. Mr. Lewandowski is represented by Scott Richardson of the law office of Scott N. Richardson, P.A. in West Palm Beach, and Kendall Coffey of Coffey Burlington in Miami.”
The statement also directed all media with questions to contact Richardson’s office.
Also on Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Victory press conference was over. Why is she allowed to grab me and shout questions? Can I press charges?”
Trump also tweeted a photo of what appeared to be Fields’ hand brushing his elbow. He asked, “Why is this reporter touching me as I leave news conference? What is in her hand?”
Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson told CNN that Fields “crossed the threshold of the Secret Service,” indicating Lewandowski could use that defense when he appears at a May hearing.
Trump discussed the matter with reporters late in the day Tuesday, and urged people to view the video and compare it with Fields’ initial statement.
“You take a look at her initial statement. It sounded like she got thrown out of a building,” Trump said. “Take a look at her facial expression. Her facial expression doesn’t even change.”
Lewandowski was given a court date of May 4. Florida law defines simple battery, which is Lewandowski’s official charge, as intentionally touching or hitting a person against that person’s will. Those found guilty of the offense face a fine of up to $1,000 or a maximum one year in prison.
Richardson didn’t clarify if Lewandowski would relinquish his role as Trump’s campaign manager, Reuters reported.
“It’s hardball out there,” commented radio host Rush Limbaugh about the battery charge.
Trump, in response, sent out scathing tweets, defending his campaign manager.
In one, he wrote: “Why aren’t people looking at this reporters earliest statement as to what happened, that is before she found out the episode was on tape?”
In another, he tweeted: “Wow, Corey Lewandowski, my campaign manager and a very decent man, was just charged with assaulting a reporter. Look at tapes-nothing there!”