When Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested Tuesday that only gun rights supporters could prevent Hillary Clinton from choosing Supreme Court justices, many on both sides of the aisle saw it as a threat. But his comments have also prompted questions about if they are threatening enough to warrant Secret Service investigation.
In a North Carolina rally Tuesday, Trump — himself a recipient of Secret Service protection — suggested that a Clinton presidency would be catastrophic for gun rights supporters, and that only “Second Amendment people” could stop her from shaping the courts in her favor.
"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks," Trump said on the stage. "Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.”
The comment elicited visible surprise from the crowd and criticism from both Democrats and Republicans who interpreted the comment as a veiled call to shoot Clinton. Trump’s campaign quickly released a statement saying the comments were meant only to rally gun owners to participate politically as a voting bloc.
CNN reported that the Secret Service had had "more than one conversation" with the campaign about the comments, though it was unclear with whom. The campaign told the Secret Service that any violent implications were unintentional, according to the network.
But another federal official told Reuters Wednesday that the Secret Service had not had formal conversations with the Republican nominee about his comments.
Secret Service communications director Cathy Milhoan said Tuesday in a statement that “the U.S. Secret Service is aware of Mr. Trump's comments,” and an agency spokesman declined to comment further Thursday, citing the Secret Service’s “apolitical” nature.
Trump himself denied the CNN report on Twitter, slamming “low ratings CNN” for reporting a false story: