Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte looks on during a campaign meet and greet at Lambros Real Estate on May 24, 2017 in Missoula, Montana. 
Justin Sullivan

GOP congressman accused of misleading police following assault

In May, the day before a congressional special election in Montana, the Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, physically assaulted a reporter. At the time, the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs pressed Gianforte with a question about health care policy, and the GOP candidate responded by attacking the journalist, throwing him to the ground, and breaking his glasses.

We already know that Gianforte and his campaign lied to the public – they issued a public statement accusing Jacobs of instigating the physical altercation, despite an audio recording that proved otherwise – but the Washington Post reported that the Montana congressman, before winning his competitive race, may have misled local law enforcement, too.

Documents released by law enforcement officials in Montana on Friday show that Greg Gianforte, then the Republican candidate in the state’s special congressional election, told police in May that a reporter from the Guardian had grabbed his wrist during a physical altercation at his campaign headquarters, blaming the “liberal media” for “trying to make a story.”

His statement appears to contradict the apology he later issued to Ben Jacobs, saying the reporter “did not initiate any physical contact with me,” raising questions about whether the congressman was truthful with authorities…. The documents from Gallatin County law enforcement, made public for the first time Friday.

Gianforte reportedly told the police at the time that Jacobs “grabbed” his arm and wrist, and “pulled me into him.” The Republican added that the “liberal media … is trying to make a story.”

And yet, after the votes were counted, and the electoral risk disappeared, Gianforte apologized and conceded that the reporter “did not initiate any physical contact.”

In other words, Gianforte didn’t tell the truth to the police about the assault.

It’s worth emphasizing for context that Gianforte, after taking office, pleaded guilty to assault and was sentenced to, among other things, 20 hours of anger management classes. This is unrelated to allegedly false claims he made at the time.

I’m curious about the consequences in Republican politics for a congressman who not only committed a violent crime, but who failed to tell the truth to law enforcement. Donald Trump’s purported interest in “law and order” notwithstanding, my suspicion is few in the GOP will care.