Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’s neighbor — a retired doctor who lives next door to Paul in a gated community in Bowling Green, Kentucky — attacked the senator on Friday afternoon, fracturing five of his ribs and bruising his lung.
Many of the details surrounding the assault on Paul, particularly the motive, are still murky. We don’t yet know whether the neighbor’s motivations were personal, political, or a mixture of the two.
What is clear is that Paul’s injuries could keep him away from Washington for a significant amount of time, depriving Senate Republicans, who hold a razor-thin majority, of his critical vote.
Paul was mowing his lawn when a neighbor tackled him
Paul was reportedly mowing his lawn at his home in a gated community in Bowling Green, Kentucky, when the suspect — 59-year-old Rene Boucher — tackled Paul from behind, “forcing him to the ground and causing pain,” reports NBC News, which obtained the criminal complaint.
Boucher has been charged with one count of fourth-degree assault, and was released from custody Saturday night on $7,500 bond, Reuters reported.
In the first reports Friday night, state police said Paul had sustained “minor injuries.” But on Sunday, Paul’s chief strategist, Doug Stafford, said in a statement to the Washington Post that the fractured ribs — three of which were partly or completely cracked — had bruised at least one of Paul’s lungs.
“This type of injury is caused by high velocity severe force,” Stafford said. “It is not clear exactly how soon he will return to work, as the pain is considerable as is the difficulty in getting around, including flying.” He described the injuries as those that could lead to serious and long-term health ramifications.
On Sunday, Paul — who told US Weekly in a 2015 interview that he loved working in his yard and that “mowing the lawn is very therapeutic for me — acknowledged the attack on Twitter. He referred to it as “Friday’s unfortunate event.”
The FBI is investigating, but the motive isn’t clear yet
The Kentucky State Police are investigating the incident in coordination with the FBI, which is standard because Paul is a member of Congress.
The FBI is examining whether the assault on Paul amounts to a federal crime, and prosecutors with the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney also told the Bowling Green Daily News that they are reviewing the charge, and may update or add to the one count given the apparent seriousness of Paul’s injuries.
Fourth-degree assault in Kentucky is a Class A misdemeanor, and Boucher, if convicted, could face up to a year in jail and up to a $500 fine.
A local NBC affiliate, WAVE 3 News, reported that the Kentucky State Police indicated that the FBI is also looking into whether the attack may have been politically motivated. But local and federal law enforcement have not given any specific evidence to back up that up, and so far, what prompted Boucher to ambush the senator remains unclear. Boucher is a registered Democrat, the Associated Press reported, and the Washington Post said a Facebook page that appeared to belong to Boucher contained some anti-Trump memes.
Yet the two men, who live next door to each other and who, as doctors, previously worked together, may have argued in the past. Jim Bullington, who served on the city commission and was acquainted with both Paul and Boucher, told the Post that the men are political opposites and have had “heated discussions” about health care. One unidentified neighbor also told WAVE 3 News that Paul and Boucher, who lived in the same neighborhood, had “ongoing” problems — though the report did not elaborate on what those might be.
Boucher’s attorney, in a statement provided to Fox News on Monday afternoon, denied that the attack had anything to do with politics, and instead called it a “regrettable dispute between two neighbors over a matter that most people would regard as trivial”:
Jonathan Martin of the New York Times has reported that this “trivial” issue might have something to do with some mysterious plant-related problems:
Boucher is a retired doctor who practiced as an anesthesiologist and pain specialist; his medical license expired in 2015. According to a Bowling Green Daily News report from 2005, Boucher also invented the Therm-a-Vest, a device that attaches by Velcro and heats up to help with chronic back pain. It was featured on QVC.
Boucher, who reportedly admitted to the assault, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
Paul could have pain for “weeks or months”
Paul, left bloodied and bruised after the attack, faces a potentially prolonged recovery. “This type of injury is also accompanied by severe pain that can last weeks to months,” Stafford, his strategist, said.
This could complicate things for Republicans, who have been relying on their slim majority in the upper chamber to push through their legislative agenda. The GOP is following an aggressive timeline to pass tax reform — President Trump has called on the House GOP to pass the overhaul by Thanksgiving — and Paul’s vote may be necessary to pass the Senate’s version of the tax bill without Democratic votes (and pretty much everything else on the Republican to-do list).
It matters even more because other GOP senators — including John McCain (R-AZ), who’s receiving treatment for brain cancer and just suffered an Achilles tendon tear in his right leg — are dealing with health issues that could chip away at the available 52 votes.
Of course, Paul is not always a reliable vote for the GOP. He was the sole Republican senator who voted against the Senate budget resolution that changed the rules for passing tax legislation — but because he wanted deeper cuts.
The attack on Paul also adds to questions over the security of lawmakers, as the Wall Street Journal points out. In June, a gunman opened fire at a GOP congressional baseball practice, injuring four people, including severely wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Paul, who was at the practice that day, escaped unharmed.