Presidential Primaries

Donald Trump: 'Never said' I would pay supporters' legal fees

Is the candidate's rhetoric fueling the tension?


Donald Trump appeared to backtrack Tuesday after the Republican frontrunner previously said he’d “instructed my people” to look into paying the legal fees of a supporter who sucker-punched a protester during a rally in North Carolina last week.

“No, because I don’t condone violence and I didn’t say I was going to pay for the fees,” Trump said on “Good Morning America.” “No, I didn’t say that. I haven’t looked at it yet and nobody’s asked me to pay fees and somebody asked me a question and I hadn’t seen it so I never said I was going to pay for fees.”

Asked if paying legal fees was tantamount to rewarding violence, Trump said “maybe that’s why I wouldn’t do it.”

“I don’t condone violence at all,” he said. “I looked and I watched and I’m going to make a decision. I certainly don’t condone violence and maybe you’re right and maybe that’s why I wouldn’t do it.”

That response stood in stark contrast to Trump’s position Sunday, when the businessman told “Meet The Press” that “I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.”

“It” refers to the pending criminal case against 78-year-old John McGraw, who’s been charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct for punching Rakeem Jones, 26, as Jones was being ejected from a Trump event in Fayetteville on March 9. The assault was captured on video from numerous angles, and McGraw admitted on camera after the rally that he threw the punch.

Trump had previously alluded to a willingness to pay legal fees for supporters who physically engaged with protesters.

“Try not to hurt him,” Trump said after calling for a protester to be ejected from a March 4 rally in Warren, Mich. “If you do, I’ll defend you in court.”