A U.S. senator was allegedly assaulted four days ago, and the more we learn about it, the stranger it becomes.
Since Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was attacked on Friday, we’ve found out that the accused party is his next-door neighbor in a gated community in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The neighbor, Rene Boucher, has confirmed that he tackled Paul. We’ve also learned that Paul sustained more severe injuries than previously known - including five broken ribs, three of which were displaced fractures, meaning they are partially or fully cracked - and that they will require months of recovery. Police had initially said that Paul sustained minor injuries, and as The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe writes, the severity of those injuries could lead to felony charges against Boucher, rather than the current misdemeanor charge.
The motive is still unclear, though - and pregnantly so, given the accused has basically admitted to the attack.
After some right-wing outlets noted that the neighbor appears to have socialist tendencies, some suggested the attack might be politically motivated. In the aftermath of the mass shooting at a congressional GOP baseball practice earlier this year - before which the shooter asked if the members on the field were Republicans - that narrative clearly had some draw.
But, apparently in response to those theories, Boucher’s lawyer, Matthew J. Baker, issued a statement Monday assuring that this had “absolutely nothing to do with either’s politics or political agendas.”
Then he added that it was “a very regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial.”
And then he added that Boucher hoped the two men could “get back to being neighbors as quickly as possible.”
So it’s a “trivial” matter, but apparently he can’t say what was so “trivial.” Is it because the reason is embarrassing, because it might somehow be more incriminating, or what? It’s also somewhat more difficult to believe such serious injuries would result from such a “trivial” dispute. And the line about them resuming as neighbors “as quickly as possible” is a bit odd. I’m guessing Paul doesn’t exactly feel the same way right now.
(The New York Times cites three Kentucky Republicans who say the attack was the result of a landscaping dispute, though the details are still sketchy. “Competing explanations of the origins of the drama cited stray yard clippings, newly planted saplings and unraked leaves,” the Times reports. But a friend who visited Paul on Saturday, Robert Porter, said Paul “is still unsure why he was attacked.”)
Paul’s office isn’t clarifying exactly what happened either, for what it’s worth, but a statement from Paul’s chief of staff doesn’t exactly downplay it. “It is a pending, serious criminal matter involving state and federal authorities,” Doug Stafford said. “We won’t have any further comments at this time.”
The wording there - “involving state and federal authorities” - is also somewhat intriguing. Why are the federal authorities going to be involved? We only know so far of the arrest warrant in Kentucky. Is it just because Paul is a U.S. senator and they are inherently involved? Federal law, for what it’s worth, makes attacking federal officials like members of Congress punishable by up to 10 years in prison if “personal injury results.”
There are a lot more questions than answers right now. And the whole thing seems to be getting more opaque rather than less.
Aaron Blake is a Washington Post columnist.