Republican candidate charged with assault, roiling Trump’s Montana test

A Montana Republican running for a U.S. House of Representatives seat was charged with assaulting a reporter hours before polls opened on Thursday for a special election that could test President Donald Trump’s political clout.

The incident on Wednesday threatened to roil a tightening race in the Republican-leaning state, where a Democratic political novice aims to pull off a victory in a contest seen as a bellwether for next year’s U.S. congressional elections.

It was not clear what effect the assault charge against Republican technology executive Greg Gianforte will have on the Montana race, where 37 percent of the 699,207 registered voters had already submitted absentee ballots, according to state election officials.

Republican lawmakers criticized Gianforte but stopped short of asking him to withdraw from the race.

Asked about the incident, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters it should not have happened.

“Should the gentleman apologize?” Ryan told a regular news briefing. “Yeah, I think he should apologize. There’s no call for this, no matter what, under any circumstance.”

Ryan said it was up to Montana voters to pick their representative, and he would not attempt to block Gianforte from joining Congress if he wins the election.

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