U.S. Senator Josh Hawley took a break from tweeting about two key Missouri concerns — the NBA and China — to ask U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner for thinking about prosecuting Mark and Patricia McCloskey.
In a letter sent this morning, Hawley called on Barr to open a federal civil rights investigation into whether "this impending prosecution violates this family's constitutional rights."
The McCloskeys, you may have seen, earned international notoriety when they pulled guns on protesters who were marching past the couple's Central West End mansion on June 28.
Gardner infuriated Republicans, including Donald Trump, by saying she would "not tolerate the use of force against those exercising their First Amendment rights" and would be opening an investigation.
As of this writing, Gardner has not charged the McCloskeys with anything. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department on Friday executed a search at the Portland Place home of the married personal injury attorneys and seized a rifle, apparently the one that Mark McCloskey brandished at the first sight of protesters.
Police have also said they have applied for arrest warrants in the case, but so far Gardner's prosecutors have not filed any charges. But Hawley sees even the investigation as an affront to gun rights.
"There is no question under Missouri law that the McCloskeys had the right to own and use their firearms to protect themselves from threatened violence, and that any criminal prosecution for these actions is legally unsound," says Hawley who served as Missouri's attorney general before quitting mid-term to bolt to the senate. "The only possible motivation for the investigation, then, is a politically motivated attempt to punish this family for exercising their Second Amendment rights."
In making his case for the feds to intercede in the local case, Hawley adopts the McCloskeys' version of events, a narrative in which the lives of the husband and wife (and their pets!) were threatened, but the couple managed to hold off a murderous crowd of arsonists through nerve and superior fire power.
That narrative has a few holes, as we've pointed out. Despite Mark McCloskey's claim that he only grabbed his rifle after protesters smashed a wrought-iron gate and stormed toward their property with slaughter on their minds, video shows people opening the gate and walking on the street and sidewalk.
In the footage, McCloskey appears to see the marchers before they see him. He screams "Get the hell out of my neighborhood!" from his vantage of a raised patio. He is already brandishing the rifle.
In the ensuing moments, protesters call for him to put the gun away. Patricia McCloskey soon appears on the lawn, pointing a handgun at the crowd on the sidewalk and street. Protesters eventually continued on to Krewson's block, but not before photographers and videographers had captured soon-to-be-viral images of the couple.
But while the McCloskeys were mocked across the world as the face of white privilege, Republicans have rallied behind them as symbols of a segment of America pushed too far. Gardner has become their villain.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson blasted her during a news conference on Tuesday, saying the McCloskeys "had every right to defend their property." He revealed that he and Trump has spoken on the phone that day, and the president had promised to take "actions" in support of the couple. Parson added that he had explained to Trump that, as governor, he didn't have the power to remove an elected official from office, but he said that was something the state legislature should consider next session.
Gardner fired back on Tuesday after the comments from Parson and Trump.
"It is unbelievable the Governor of the state of Missouri would seek advice from one of the most divisive leaders in our generation to overpower the discretion of a locally elected prosecutor," she said in a statement.
She promised to continue reviewing the facts in the McCloskey case.
Update: Gardner released the following statement in response to Hawley: "I am deeply disappointed that a U.S. Senator would intervene in a local matter that is under investigation."
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