During the rally, the man introduced himself to Tucson police officers as a member of Trump’s security team during a discussion about the large contingent of protesters at the rally, according to a source who witnessed the exchange in the upper level of the Tucson Convention Center. The source said the man, dressed in a dark pullover embroidered with the logo for “Trump National Doral” resort, also could be seen directing uniformed security personnel inside the convention center, which hosted the rally.
Multiple journalists who have covered Trump’s campaign rallies also identified the man as a member of the candidate’s private security detail, which has deployed staffers in street clothes to root out protesters.
At some point during the rally, the unidentified man in the dark pullover was captured on video, alongside Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, engaging in what appears to be a heated conversation with a young protester. Lewandowski can be seen grabbing the collar of the protester, who is subsequently pulled backward forcefully.
When CBS correspondent Jacqueline Alemany posted the video to Twitter, it drew a wave of condemnation for Lewandowski, who this month faced calls for his firing after he was accused of manhandling a reporter.
Trump campaign spokesman Hope Hicks, in a statement issued Saturday night in response to the Tucson video, said it was the man in the dark pullover ― not Lewandowski ― who forcefully pulled the protester. While she failed to identify the man in the dark pullover as a member of Trump’s security detail, she suggested his actions were justified by the behavior of the protester, who can be seen in the video grabbing the arm of a young woman in front of him.
When POLITICO on Sunday asked Hicks why she did not identify the man as a member of Trump’s security detail, she explained: “Although we did not identify this individual, we did not make any suggestion as to his affiliation or lack thereof.”
In her original statement on Saturday night, Hicks said that the protester in question “was pulled from behind by the man to Lewandowski’s left. The video clearly shows the protestor reacting to the man who pulled him, not to Mr. Lewandowski. The man to Corey's left who pulls the protester back and many other people in the scene are reacting to the protestor grabbing the woman in the green shirt.”
Hicks on Sunday declined to provide the name of the security officer in the dark pullover. But she suggested the campaign would try to limit its staff’s interactions with protesters going forward.
“We will be dedicating additional security resources to larger events in the future to prevent staff from having to intervene,” she told POLITICO.
POLITICO this month revealed that Trump’s campaign had started deploying members of its own security team in street clothes to intermingle with the crowds at his increasingly violent rallies in an effort to identify and remove protesters.
Hicks pointed out that the Tucson protesters with whom Lewandowski and the unidentified security officer had the altercation were “holding signs laced with profanity.” She added “while we do not condone violence or interactions of any kind, that kind of language is not acceptable for the families and television cameras in attendance.”
During Saturday’s rally in Tucson, Trump was interrupted several times by protesters.
And, in a separate incident, a protester who was being led out of the rally by uniformed security was punched and stomped by another attendee, who was subsequently detained by police.
Author: Kenneth P. Vogel and Ben Schreckinger