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.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m. ET: 32,390,204 — Total deaths: 985,302 — Total recoveries: 22,286,345Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6:30 p.m ET: 7,020,967 — Total deaths: 203,481 — Total recoveries: 2,710,183 — Total tests: 98,476,600Map.
  3. States: "We’re not closing anything going forward": Florida fully lifts COVID restaurant restrictions — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam tests positive for coronavirus.
  4. Health: Young people accounted for 20% of cases this summer.
  5. Business: Coronavirus has made airports happier places The expiration of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance looms.
  6. Education: Where bringing students back to school is most risky.
Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden pushes unity message in new TV wave

A fresh Joe Biden ad, "New Start," signals an effort by his campaign to make unity a central theme, underscoring a new passage in his stump speech that says he won't be a president just for Democrats but for all Americans.

What he's saying: The ad — which began Friday night, and is a follow-up to "Fresh Start" — draws from a Biden speech earlier in the week in Manitowoc, Wisconsin: