Trump praises Montana GOP congressman for body-slamming reporter

Congressman criticizes Trump's reporter assault praise

Gianforte is running for re-election as the state's lone seat in the House of Representatives, and made national headlines during a special election for assaulting a reporter in a moment caught on audio tape.

"And I said, oh, this is bad".

Donald Trump praised Congressman Gianforte and called him "an incredible Montana leader".

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Trump was speaking at a rally in Missoula, Mont., where the president was campaigning for a Republican challenger to Sen.

Ben Jacobs, the reporter who was attacked after asking the candidate whether he supported the Republican healthcare plan, agreed not to sue Mr Gianforte if he wrote a letter of apology and donated $50,000 (£39,500) to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Trump commented at the rally that upon hearing of the assault, he thought it might hurt Gianforte's chances.

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"He's a great guy, tough cookie", he said.

"And I said 'Oh, this is awful. he's going to lose the election, '" Trump said before adding, "Then I said 'Well, wait a minute".

Trump's remarks on Gianforte's assault come amid new evidence surrounding the disappearance of the US-based Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who is feared to have been brutally killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. "We hope decent people will denounce these comments and that the president will see fit to apologize for them". Trump said to cheers.

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This is the first time as president that Trump has openly and directly praised a violent act against a journalist on American soil, although he commonly attacks what he calls the "fake news" media, such as CNN and NBC. Turkish authorities say that he was murdered in the consulate, and his apparent grisly killing has turned attention to the USA relationship to the regime of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

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