WASHINGTON ― Former President Donald Trump on Thursday backed a rioter who was shot by police while storming the Capitol and rebuked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for defending the officer.
McCarthy said earlier on Thursday that the officer who shot Ashli Babbitt on Jan. 6, 2021, was just doing his job.
“I totally disagree with the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, in that the Police Officer ‘Thug,’ who has had a very checkered past to begin with, was not just ‘doing his job’ when he shot and killed Great Patriot Ashli Babbitt at point blank range,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
Babbitt was shot as she tried to climb through a broken window in a barricaded doorway to the Speaker’s Lobby, which is just outside the House chamber, while lawmakers evacuated. She was part of a violent mob that threatened officers guarding the entrance and smashed the windows with their fists. The Capitol Police have said the officer’s action likely saved lives.
Trump’s post illustrates the collision course of McCarthy’s speakership. He won the job with the support of far-right lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), a conspiracy theorist who baselessly claims undercover FBI agents tricked Trump’s supporters into storming the Capitol that day.
Empowered by McCarthy with a seat on the House Oversight Committee, this week Greene used her new platform to claim Babbitt was “murdered,” likening her death to the high-profile police killing of Tyre Nichols. She dubiously claimed in an interview with HuffPost that Babbitt wasn’t trying to climb through the window, contrary to video evidence.
HuffPost asked McCarthy on Thursday if he agreed with Greene that Babbitt was murdered. “I think the police officer did his job,” he said, avoiding comment on Greene’s inflammatory remarks.
Even an anodyne statement in support of police sets up McCarthy for a clash with Trump.
Trump has not only praised his riotous supporters but also participated in a fundraiser for the legal defense of people charged with attacking police on Jan. 6. Thursday’s post is not the first time Trump has criticized the officer who shot Babbitt.
The officer, Lt. Michael Byrd, was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Justice Department in 2021.
Byrd told NBCNews in a tearful 2021 interview that he believed he’d done his job to protect members of Congress. He said he’d been in hiding for months due to a flood of death threats thanks to right-wing websites.
“This officer and the officer’s family have been the subject of numerous credible and specific threats for actions that were taken as part of the job of all our officers: defending the Congress, Members, staff and the democratic process,” the Capitol Police said in a statement that year.
Trump, an expert in riling his supporters and directing harassment toward anyone he considers an obstacle, used his statement Thursday to send more abuse Byrd’s way.
“Despite trying to keep him anonymous, shielded, and protected, this MISFIT proudly showed up on NBC Fake Nightly News ‘bragging’ about the killing,” Trump wrote Thursday. “He was not a hero but a COWARD, who wanted to show how tough he was. ASHLI BABBITT WAS MURDERED!!!”