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The GOP grievance machine is well-oiled, well-defended, and well-funded, and the Kenosha shooting suspect, Kyle Rittenhouse, is just the latest beneficiary of its design.
Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old former police cadet, has been charged with murder, among other crimes, for allegedly killing two protesters and injuring a third during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week. Now, he’s landed the legal and financial backing of big-time conservative lawyers, one of whom recently represented the St. Louis couple accused of threatening Black Lives Matter protesters with guns and the MAGA-hatted teen who confronted a Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial.
Rittenhouse’s main source of support is the #FightBack Foundation, which brings “lawsuits to stop the lies and smears of the radical left.” The foundation, which is collecting donations to pay Rittenhouse’s legal bills, was created in early August by a group of lawyers, including legal powerhouses Lin Wood and John Pierce. Pierce’s firm, Pierce Bainbridge, is defending Rittenhouse; Wood is handling the legal fund, which will pay the bills.
“Kyle Rittenhouse will be acquitted,” Pierce wrote on Twitter. “He will become a symbol of the heroic individual American who at certain times in history must say: ‘Don’t Tread On Me.’”
Lawyers representing Rittenhouse are claiming he acted in self-defense. He claimed that he traveled to Kenosha from his home in Antioch, Illinois, to protect businesses from protesters, and his social media revealed an affinity with the pro-police “Back the Blue” movement. Video shows him carrying an AR-15-style rifle and apparently shooting multiple people following an earlier confrontation between armed militia members and protesters.
Pierce’s firm has previously represented Rudy Giuliani, who is on President Donald Trump’s personal legal team. It also represented former Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who sued Hillary Clinton after she described the congresswoman as a “Russian asset.”
Wood, whose Twitter bio contains QAnon slogans, is a nationally known attorney specializing in defamation cases.
“Kyle Rittenhouse acted in self-defense,” Wood tweeted. “An egregious miscarriage of justice is occurring with respect to this 17-year-old boy.”
Wood first gained notoriety when he settled a libel and defamation suit on behalf of Richard Jewel, a security guard whom some news outlets described as a potential suspect in the pipe bombing during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. In 2011, Wood was hired by former GOP presidential candidate, the late Herman Cain, who was attempting to fend off sexual harassment accusations at the time.
Wood was also the lead attorney in former Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann’s defamation suit against the Washington Post, which was settled in July for an undisclosed amount. (Lawsuits are still pending against other news outlets.) Recently, Wood was retained by Patricia and Mark McCloskey, who are facing charges of brandishing guns on their mansion’s lawn and pointing them at protesters. The McCloskeys and Sandmann spoke at the Republican National Convention last week. Sandmann recently bagged a spot on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign as “grassroots director.”
Wood was also recently retained by Dr. Simone Gold, who was fired after she appeared in a viral video — that was retweeted by President Donald Trump — touting the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19.
It’s not clear how much #FightBack has raised for Rittenhouse so far, and they did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment. But he’s also pulled in donations from other sources.
For example, GiveSendGo, which describes itself as the “#1 Free Christian Crowdfunding Site,” has pulled in nearly $200,000 for Rittenhouse.
“We have all seen the hatred that has threatened our country in recent months, and in Kyle we have seen the courage against chaos that we all desire to see within our own hearts,” the funding page reads. “This young man has reinvigorated the faith of many that this country and its founding principles are indeed founded upon the rock, not built upon the sand.”
Many of the donors left comments along with their contributions.
“Communists aren’t people,” wrote one donor, who gave $20 to the fund.
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,” an anonymous donor, quoting Thomas Jefferson, wrote. “The war is only beginning,” another wrote.
College Republicans United, a student group at Arizona State University, also said it’s crowdfunding on behalf of Rittenhouse. ASU College Republicans recently condemned the group as a “radical, far-right extremist group.”
GoFundMe, meanwhile, has deleted several fundraisers for Rittenhouse.
The outpouring of financial and legal support comes as some prominent conservatives have used their platforms to rush to Rittenhouse’s defense.
“How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided that they had to maintain order when no one else would,” said Fox News host Tucker Carlson during a broadcast the night after the Kenosha shooting.
Arizona congressman Paul Gosar described Rittenhouse’s actions as “100% justified self-defense.”
“Do not try to take a weapon away from a man or beat the consequences,” Gosar wrote.
Right-wing conservative pundit Mark Dice tweeted to his nearly 700,000 followers that Rittenhouse “clearly acted in self defense.”
“Hopefully this experience will lead him to become a police officer so he can continue to protect his community,” Dice added.
Cover (Left to Right): Mark and Patricia McCloskey stand in front of their house to confront protesters in St. Louis on June 28, 2020. (Laurie Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP File); former Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann addresses the Republican National Committee on August 25, 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Committee on Arrangements for the 2020 Republican National Committee via Getty Images); Kyle Rittenhouse helps clean the exterior of Reuther Central High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (Pat Nabong/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)