Witnesses to the incident in May past year said Gianforte became enraged over coverage he perceived as biased before throwing Jacobs to the ground and punching him.
Before introducing Rep. Greg Gianforte, Trump mocked his "body slam" of Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs past year. Still, after Trump called Gianforte "a tremendous person and a tough cookie" at a rally Thursday in Missoula, Mont., Jacobs felt "shock and dismay". "He's going to lose the election,"' Trump told the crowd.
"I don't have anything to say about that", he said. Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was allegedly killed in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
Guardian Editor John Mulholland denounced the president's praise for the assault as an attack on the First Amendment.
Trump referenced Gianforte again later during Thursday's rally when discussing former Vice President Joe Biden, who once said he would "beat the hell out of" Trump if they were in high school.
Mulholland continued, saying the rhetoric was risky, especially given the disappearance of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who is believed to have been killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey.
In praising Gianforte, the strategist noted, Trump "essentially endorsed a crime". He wished that the president had surprised him, he said.
"The president of the United States tonight applauded the assault on an American journalist who works for the Guardian".
Trump's statements caused a stir among social media users, many of whom slammed Trump over his comments.
He said he had feared that the 2017 assault could have hindered Mr Gianforte's chances of winning the special congressional election that followed.
Nossel added: "During a week when the world is riveted in horror at the brutal murder of a journalist by the Saudi government, Trump's remarks are a chilling reminder that U.S. global leadership on press freedom has collapsed utterly under the president's watch".