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Trump doubles down on unfounded conspiracy theory involving Scarborough aide

Trump repeats Scarborough conspiracy theory
Trump repeats Scarborough conspiracy theory 01:07

Washington — President Trump on Tuesday doubled down on his attacks linking MSNBC host Joe Scarborough to an unfounded conspiracy theory about the death of a former congressional aide. Mr. Trump repeated a line used by press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, referencing remarks from a 2003 interview where radio host Don Imus talked about Lori Klausutis' death.

Asked about his comments in the Rose Garden on Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump called the death of Klausutis, who was found dead in 2001 in Scarborough's district office, "very sad and suspicious." 

Klausutis' husband, Timothy, wrote a letter to Twitter — published by The New York Times —pleading with the company to remove Mr. Trump's tweets, which push a debunked conspiracy theory that Scarborough murdered his 28-year-old employee. 

"A lot of people suggest" that Scarborough was responsible, the president said, adding that "hopefully some day people are going to find out."  

President Trump Delivers Remarks On Protecting Seniors With Diabetes
President Donald Trump makes remarks during an event on protecting seniors with diabetes, in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 26, 2020, as the U.S. closes in on 100,000 deaths in less than four months caused by the coronavirus. Getty

The medical examiner's office in Florida determined Klausutis had a heart condition that caused her to fall and hit her head on the desk at the office, according to the medical examiner's report published by the Washington Post. In his letter, Timothy Klausutis also noted the circumstances surrounding his wife's death and said "these horrifying lies" have left him "frustrated and grieved."

McEnany was pressed during Tuesday's White House press briefing on Mr. Trump's earlier tweets. 

"If we want to start talking about false accusations, we have quite a few we can go through," McEnany told reporters, referencing Scarborough and Brzezinski's own criticisms of Mr. Trump. The pair host MSNBC's "Morning Joe" together.

During an event at the White House later Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump doubled down on his tweets, saying Klausutis' death was "very sad and very suspicious."

During the White House press briefing, McEnany accused Scarborough and Brzezinski of criticizing Mr. Trump's family.

"They've made false accusations that I won't go through, that I would not say from this podium, against the president of the United States. They should be held accountable for their falsehoods."

McEnany then referenced a 2003 interview between Scarborough and Don Imus, during which Klausutis' death was raised. In a clip posted by The Daily Caller, a conservative website, it's Imus who makes a joking reference to an intern who was allegedly murdered.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany answers questions during the daily briefing at the White House on May 26, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Getty

"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," she said, adding "our hearts are with Lori."

Mr. Trump fired off numerous tweets across the month of May referencing a "cold case" involving Scarborough and questioning whether Florida law enforcement would further investigate Klausutis' death.

On May 4, the president said "Concast" should "open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough," and on May 12, Mr. Trump questioned whether the MSNBC host got "away with murder."

"Some people think so," the president tweeted. "Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn't it obvious? What's happening now? A total nut job!"

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said "the opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough was not a Donald Trump original thought" and said there were "so many unanswered & obvious questions."

"But I won't bring them up," he continued. "Law enforcement eventually will?"

Mr. Trump's tweets spreading a baseless conspiracy theory earned him condemnation from Democrats and at least one Republican, Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois.

"Completely unfounded conspiracy. Just stop. Stop spreading it, stop creating paranoia. It will destroy us," Kinzinger tweeted Sunday.

Scarborough and Brzezinski have also denounced Mr. Trump's debunked accusations.

On Tuesday, The New York Times published the letter from Klausutis' widower to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey making a request: "Please delete the tweets."

"I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife  — and perverted it for perceived political gain," Timothy Klausutis wrote.

In response to his plea, a Twitter spokesperson said the company has "been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly."

"We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family," the spokesperson said in a statement.

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