Trump praises congressman who assaulted reporter

Donald Trump speaks during a “Make America Great” rally in Missoula Montana

A 2017 investigation into the assault included interviews with members of a Fox news crew who said Mr Gianforte had been angry with Mr Jacobs over what he perceived as biased coverage.

The "Cuomo Prime Time" host said that if Gianforte ― whose 2017 body-slamming of a journalist was celebrated by President Donald Trump at a rally this week ― didn't like the criticism that he was leveling at him, then he could "come body-slam me as well".

Trump referenced Gianforte again later during Thursday's rally when discussing former Vice President Joe Biden, who once said he would "beat the hell out of" Trump if they were in high school. His comments Thursday also came as the slaying of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul continued to brew as an global crisis.

The crowd laughed and cheered as Trump went on, saying "he's a great guy, tough cookie".

"I don't have anything to say about that", he said. He has not been seen since.

Then, when Saudi Arabia claimed on Friday that Khashoggi died during a fist fight at its Istanbul consulate, Trump told reporters he found the explanation "credible" -despite the USA intelligence community and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including members of his own party, viewing that narrative with skepticism.

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"This shocking and chilling, especially in light of the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi", tweeted Guardian Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner.

In praising Gianforte, the strategist noted, Trump "essentially endorsed a crime".

A Downing Street spokeswoman declined to comment on Trump's speech, but said that "any violence or intimidation against a journalist is completely unacceptable". While President Trump has reportedly said he found Saudi's explanation credible, a number of lawmakers in Congress remain skeptical. "The signal this sends about how the United States and how the president of the United States views journalists when 44 journalists have been killed this year is what's really the concern".

Trump's comments drew condemnation from The Guardian, other journalists, USA lawmakers, a spokesman for Britain's prime minister and people on Twitter.

While outrage over Trump's remarks erupted on social media.

We have filed suit challenging the President's threats and retaliatory actions toward the press to affirm the role of First Amendment and demand that our government treat journalists with the protections they deserve, and that our democracy depends upon. Trump said he found out about Gianforte assaulting a reporter when he was travelling in Rome and said initially he was concerned it would hurt the Republican in the election.

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