Trump weighs in on Kristi Noem at a private fundraiser

Donald Trump told a room of wealthy donors in Manhattan on Tuesday night that he had questions about Cricket, the 14-month-old wirehaired pointer who was shot and killed by South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, an account that has haunted Noem as the race to be Trump’s running mate heats up.

During a private fundraiser, Trump weighed in on the firestorm that followed Noem’s admission in her new book that she had shot her young dog dead 20 years ago. Trump mused about Cricket’s fate in stem-winding remarks and described Noem as controversial, according to three sources who were in the room.

The governor was one of several “special guests” at the event, which included rumored vice presidential hopefuls Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Tim Scott of South Carolina, and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, each of whom were introduced by Trump. The former president also shouted out some attendees, including former New York Rep. Lee Zeldin and New York state GOP Chairman Ed Cox.

“What a week!” Trump said when he got to Noem, adding, “The dog, the dog!”

“I’m really curious,” Trump said, “about the dog.”

Trump riffed on Cricket’s story — a tale that has prompted a fierce public backlash — before sounding a positive note as he returned to talk about longtime ally Noem and touted her steadfast support for him over the years.

“She’s been there for us for a long time,” Trump said. “She’s loyal, she’s great.”

One of the sources in the room said Trump was more bemused than critical about the dog controversy.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In a statement Wednesday via text message, a spokesperson for Noem said the governor “appreciated President Trump’s words of support of her leadership during her time as Governor and was glad to attend the event at his request.”

“Thank you for advertising Governor Noem’s NYT bestseller ‘No Going Back’ — she is very proud of its success,” Ian Fury added in his text message.

Trump has so far largely tried to avoid weighing in on the dog controversy, even as Noem has taken criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. During a radio interview Tuesday on “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show,” Trump simply said that Noem had “had a bad week. We all have bad weeks.”

“Couple of rough stories, there’s no question about it,” he said. “Until this week, she was doing incredibly well. And she got hit hard and sometimes you do books and you have some guy writing a book and you maybe don’t read it as carefully as you should, you know.”

Two sources said the evening, hosted by billionaire Howard Lutnick, raised more than $10 million. It was co-hosted by top Republican donors such as billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson, and billionaire Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah.

Scrutiny of Trump’s possible VP picks has grown as the Republican convention — set for July in Wisconsin — approaches, and as Trump spends hours each week locked in a Manhattan courtroom where he is on trial and where he has urged more support from his allies.

Burgum appeared in court with Trump on Tuesday, on the campaign trail last weekend and at a recent donor retreat, which Rubio, Scott and others also attended.

Noem has faced a particularly grueling news cycle over the story of how she shot her ill-fated dog — so much so that she appeared to cut short her promotional book tour citing “bad weather.”

Noem has defended killing Cricket, doubling and tripling down on the decision in interviews after writing how her late puppy proved “untrainable” and “less than worthless” as a hunting dog.

“We were her second chance,” Noem told Fox News host Sean Hannity in an interview shortly after the story surfaced. “The day she was put down was a day that she massacred livestock that were part of our neighbors. She attacked me. And it was a hard decision.”

Noem later went as far as suggesting that President Joe Biden’s dog Commander, who was exiled from the White House after repeatedly biting Secret Service agents, should suffer a similar fate.

Noem also recounted shooting a “disgusting, musky, rancid” family goat in her book, “No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward,” and made unverified claims about meeting North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

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