At a press conference Tuesday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeatedly defended President Trump tweeting baseless conspiracy theories about the 2001 death of congressional aide Lori Klausutis, 28, who worked for then-Congressman Joe Scarborough.

Why it matters: Klausutis' widower has written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey pleading with him to delete the president's tweets, stating that his "wife deserves better." But McEnany suggested at the press conference that Scarborough, now an MSNBC host, should be held accountable for answers on Klausutis' passing — despite there being no evidence to support Trump's allegations.

  • Authorities at the time determined that Klausutis passed after losing consciousness from an abnormal heart rhythm, causing her to collapse and strike her head. No foul play was suspected.

What she's saying: McEnany repeatedly declined to deem Trump accountable for giving the unfounded theories a platform, stating: "The president said this morning that this is not an original Trump thought, and it is not."

  • She also referred to a 2003 clip of Scarborough on radio personality Don Imus' show, in which Scarborough appears to laugh at a distasteful joke Imus makes about the congressman killing a former intern.
  • "That was, I'm sure, pretty hurtful to Lori's family, and Joe Scarborough himself brought this up with Don Imus and Joe Scarborough himself can answer it," McEnany said.

Scarborough's wife and co-host Mika Brzezinski tweeted following the press conference that "the press secretary is lying."

  • "IMUS made the callous joke in 2003 during a break and then repeated it on air. Joe was embarrassed and said, “What are you going to do?” trying to move on to talk about the show. No lies can cover up the hatefulness of Donald Trump," Brzezinski wrote.

Between the lines: Trump has a longstanding feud with Scarborough and Brzezinski, who are frequently critical of the president and his administration on their morning show.

  • "Joe Scarborough — if we want to start talking about false accusations — we have quite a few we can go through ... This morning or yesterday Mika accused the president of being responsible for 100,000 deaths in this country. That's incredibly irresponsible," McEnany said.
  • "They should be held to account for their falsehoods ... It's Joe Scarborough that has to answer these questions," she added.

Go deeper

Hogan Gidley leaves White House for Trump campaign

Hogan Gidley. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley will leave his post to become the national press secretary for President Trump's re-election campaign, per sources with direct knowledge.

The big picture: Gidley, who has been serving as principal deputy press secretary, will join the campaign’s communications staff which is headed by Tim Murtaugh. He will fill the role previously held by Kayleigh McEnany, who is now White House press secretary.

The inside story of Trump’s embarrassing endorsement

Trump listens during a roundtable at the White House June 15. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Madison Cawthorn, the 24-year-old who stunningly defeated the candidate President Trump endorsed in the Republican runoff for North Carolina's 11th congressional district, got a congratulatory call last night from the president himself — on Air Force One flying back from Arizona.

Why it matters: Lynda Bennett's defeat ruined Trump's near-perfect record of endorsing winners in GOP primaries — a record he prized and often boasted about.

Updated Jun 23, 2020 - Technology

Twitter flags Trump tweet for violating rules on abusive behavior

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter on Monday opted not to take down or flag a tweet from President Trump that baselessly tied mail-in ballots to voter fraud and foreign election interference. On Tuesday, meanwhile, the platform flagged a Trump tweet threatening "serious force" against protesters seeking to set up an "autonomous zone" in Washington for violating its rules on abusive behavior.

The big picture: President Trump continues to test tech platforms' willingness to crack down on abuse and misinformation he spreads on his social media accounts, a dynamic that will likely intensify as the election approaches and he seeks to raise doubts about potentially unfavorable outcomes.