The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office will not be charging Donald Trump with “inciting a riot” after all, according to ABC News on Monday. A 78 year-old man, John Franklin McGraw, punched a protester in the face at Fayetteville, N.C. after Trump told his supporters to “knock the crap” out of the protesters and to “hit” them “in the face.” This prompted an investigation by the Cumberland Sheriff’s Office that concluded that Trump’s actions do “not meet the requisites of the law as established under the relevant North Carolina stature and case law to support a conviction of the crime of inciting a riot.”
The Sheriff’s office released its conclusions in a written statement. The statement concluded by stating: “Accordingly, we will not be seeking a warrant or indictment against Mr. Trump or his campaign for these offenses.” The statement clarified that although the investigation into the matter still is continuing, that the investigation is complete in so far as Trump is concerned.
Before McGraw committed his unprovoked act of violence, Trump promised to “pay the legal fees” of any supporters who attack protesters. When asked if he was going to pay McGraw’s legal fees, Trump responded that he has instructed his staff “to look into” the possibility of paying the fees. It appears that Trump may have inadvertently put himself in a “no win” situation with his promise to pay the legal fees of any and all of his supporters who attack protesters: If he goes back on his word, then he will lose credibility and be perceived as a lying politician. If he does pay McGraw’s fees, then he is opening the door to having to pay the legal fees of hundreds or even thousands of his supporters who feel that they have been given a “license” to engage in violence without any consequences. ($10 billion only goes so far, especially if each case for which Trump is paying costs over $1 million to defend).
Both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have criticized Trump for inciting mob violence by his supporters. Cruz stated that Trump “bears responsibility for creating an environment” that engenders violent acts, such as punching “people in the face.” Cruz discussed how the violence “escalates” in such situations and concluded by saying:
“That’s not how our politics should occur.”
Rubio also weighed in, stating: “There is only one presidential candidate who has violence at their events.” Rubio said that Trump needs to “take responsibility” for the fact that his “rhetoric” is “growing increasingly disturbing for a number of Americans.”
How much longer Trump will be able to get away with calling for violence among his supporters and not being charged with inciting a riot is anyone’s guess. But any experienced horse better would advise: Don’t bet on the same horse twice in back to back races. Next time it may be different.