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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told "Fox & Friends" on Wednesday that President Trump's baseless tweet suggesting that an elderly protester injured by police in Buffalo, N.Y., "could be an ANTIFA provocateur" was just raising "questions that need to be asked."

Why it matters: McEnany's willingness to defend the president regarding the tweet hasn't been shared by others in the Republican Party — as most GOP senators refused to acknowledge it and Trump allies inside and outside the White House were left stunned.

  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who has faced Trump's ire in recent days, refused to comment on the tweet to reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday. "Why would you want to fan the flames?" she asked.
  • One former aide even told Axios' Jonathan Swan that it's tweets like this that make him wonder whether Trump actually wants to get re-elected.

What she's saying: "So the president was raising questions based on a report that he saw. They're questions that need to be asked, and every case we can't jump on one side without looking at all the facts at play."

  • "This individual had some very questionable tweets — some profanity-laden tweets — about police officers. Of course, no one condones any sort of violence. We need the appropriate amount of force used in any interaction, but there are a lot of questions in that case."
  • "In fact, you had 56 police officers who resigned in protest of how their fellow officers were treated. So I think we need to ask why those officers resigned, what happened, what facts were on the ground. The president was just raising some of those questions."

The state of play: The conspiracy theory originated on the far-right blog Conservative Treehouse and made its way to the president via a report on One America News Network, which has a history of conspiracy-focused reporting.

  • The OANN reporter, Kristian Rouz, is a Russian national who also writes for the Kremlin-owned outlet Sputnik, per The Daily Beast.

The big picture: The protester, Martin Gugino, could remain in the hospital for the next two weeks, per CNN.

  • The officers who pushed him were charged with second-degree assault and released on bail.
  • As McEnany referenced, dozens of Buffalo police officers on the department's Emergency Response Team resigned from the unit in a show of support with their colleagues.

Go deeper

Pence set to appear at fundraiser hosted by QAnon supporters

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Vice President Pence and other prominent Republicans are set to appear at a Montana fundraiser next week hosted by a couple who publicly support the QAnon conspiracy theory, according to an invitation reviewed by AP.

Why it matters: It's yet another example of how the conspiracy theory has gained a foothold in mainstream Republican politics.

Mike Allen, author of AM
47 mins ago - Economy & Business

First look: Business puts muscle behind Biden

Business Roundtable, the voice of America's top CEOs, today launched "Move the Needle," a campaign to support President Biden in rolling out COVID vaccines, increasing vaccine uptake and encouraging masks.

What they're saying: "Masks and vaccines are working. Now is the time to keep at it, overcome pandemic fatigue, and double down on the measures that will end this public health and economic crisis, said Business Roundtable president and CEO Josh Bolten.

1 hour ago - World

U.S. notified Israel in advance about Syria strike

Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration notified Israel in advance about the airstrike against an Iranian-backed Shiite militia base on the Syrian-Iraqi border Thursday evening, Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: The airstrike was the first overt military action by the U.S. in the Middle East since Biden assumed office, and one that Israeli officials see as a positive signal about the new administration's posture toward Iran.