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GOP Senators “Stumbling” Over Trump’s Conduct, “Refuse to Say Whether It’s Appropriate for President to Ask Foreign Leader to Investigate Rival”

Voters and local editorial boards are denouncing Republican incumbents for playing politics instead of standing up for what’s right

Vulnerable GOP senators in battleground states are “stumbling” over a basic question: was the conduct President Trump admitted to — asking a foreign country to investigate a political opponent and interfere in the 2020 election — appropriate?

While Democrats have been clear that foreign interference in American elections is unacceptable, Senate Republicans are failing yet another test of leadership and independence. Now, they’re facing deserved scrutiny from voters, skeptical coverage from local press, and tough criticism from editorial boards because of their spineless inability to speak out for what’s right. No wonder Republican strategists are calling the situation “a disaster.”

Read more about how this is playing out in battleground states:

COLORADO

  • 9News: Sen. Gardner won’t say if it’s appropriate to ask foreign governments to investigate a rival
  • Denver Post: “The senator did not directly answer a question about whether he would accept foreign support in his closely watched 2020 Senate race.” 
  • @JoeStGeorge: “Breaking: @SenCoryGardner refuses to answer question whether it is appropriate for the President to ask a foreign leader to investigate a rival. Quite the exchange in Denver”
  • @NickRiccardi: “In Denver @SenCoryGardner refuses to answer questions on whether the President should be able to ask foreign countries for electoral help…”
  • CNN: GOP senator refuses to answer Trump question five times
  • Colorado Sun: “Gardner had two uncharacteristic, tense exchanges with reporters on Thursday in downtown Denver, refusing to say whether it’s appropriate for the president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival”
  • KDVR: “On Thursday afternoon, President Donald Trump liked a retweet of a video of the exchange that was originally tweeted by FOX31 political reporter Joe St. George.”
  • Los Angeles Times: “Cory Gardner of Colorado [has] mostly laid low while nurturing fundraising ties with the White House… Gardner has not directly addressed questions about whether Trump acted appropriately when he asked the Ukrainian president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. He did issue a statement denouncing the House speaker.”
  • POLITICO: “Gardner is keeping his opinion as close to the vest as possible… Asked if he still supported Trump’s reelection, Gardner declined to address the question…”

ARIZONA

  • Arizona Republic: “When asked repeatedly if Trump acted appropriately by asking foreign powers to interfere in a U.S. election by encouraging them to investigate a rival, McSally repeatedly bypassed the question.”
  • Associated Press: “Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona declined to say Monday whether she’s troubled by President Donald Trump’s efforts to get foreign governments to investigate his political rival.”
  • KJZZ: “Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally continues not to criticize President Trump over his phone call with the president of Ukraine… She wouldn’t say whether she thought President Trump’s statements on the phone call with the Ukrainian president were appropriate or not.”
  • Arizona Republic (Laurie Roberts): “Even before we learned details of now-infamous phone call in which Trump pressured a foreign power to investigate his chief political rival, McSally was outraged. Outraged, that is, that Democrats would want to investigate… I almost feel sorry for McSally – or I could if she hadn’t so quickly clung to the inside of Donald Trump’s pocket on this one.”
  • Arizona Republic (EJ Montini): “… the appointed U.S. senator remained silent, playing the parts of hear-no-evil and see-no-evil, while Vice President Mike Pence endorsed President Donald Trump’s request that foreign nations try to dig up dirt on a political rival.”

IOWA

  • Quad City Times Editorial: “We were most disappointed in Sen. Joni Ernst’s reaction. The Iowa Republican who is up for re-election next year, said that even after she’d read the rough transcript of Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine, she didn’t have any concern.”
  • Cedar Rapids Gazette Editorial: On Ukraine affair, Iowans expect more from Grassley and Ernst — “Ernst — who visited Ukraine this year and called to called to ‘promote good governance and provide greater military partnership’ — released a statement after the administration released a description of Trump’s call with Volodymyr Zelensky to say, ‘I don’t see anything there.’ … Too bad for Iowans, it appears Ernst and Grassley have already made up their minds.”
  • Iowa Starting Line: Joni Ernst Refuses To Condemn Soliciting Foreign Interference
  • AP: “‘I don’t know that we have that information in front of us,’ Ernst said in Iowa, even though the president made the request in front of cameras on the White House lawn.”
  • CNN: GOP senator refuses to answer if Trump acted inappropriately — “Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) was unwilling to answer CNN correspondent Randi Kaye when asked if she thought it was appropriate for President Trump to ask a foreign power to investigate a political rival.” (full video)
  • MSNBC: Iowa’s Ernst struggles with question at the heart of Trump scandal
  • Fox News: GOP senator confronted at town hall over her ‘silence’ on Trump’s behavior: ‘Where is the line?’
  • CNN: Voter to Republican senator: Is extortion okay?
  • Washington Post: ‘Where is the line?’: A Joni Ernst town hall questioner sums up the GOP’s Trump dilemma
  • Washington Post (Jennifer Rubin): Every Republican on the 2020 ballot should face the kind of scorn heaped on Joni Ernst

NORTH CAROLINA

  • CBC Editorial: “North Carolinians cannot rely on Sen. Thom Tillis – who quakes at every Trump tweet and parrots whatever spin the White House sends out.”
  • Greensboro News & Record Editorial: “Another Republican, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, called it ‘yet another pathetic attempt by Democrats to destroy President Trump with falsehoods.’ Tillis’ comments were hardly a surprise, since he desperately needs Trump’s support to win re-election in 2020… when Republicans boast that the Democrats’ resistance is doomed, they only underscore their own fecklessness. Now it’s the GOP that needs to ‘buy a spine.’”
  • Charlotte Observer Editorial: “Thom Tillis, however, has taken a decidedly different path. In a statement last week, he scolded ‘another pathetic attempt by Democrats to destroy President Trump with falsehoods.’ … The GOP response is, certainly, a testament to the sway that Donald Trump has over his party. But it’s also a reminder of a reality not confined to this administration or Congress — that elected officials, like so many of us, tend to look after themselves first… So like politicians have done forever, Republicans have denied or minimized Trump’s abhorrent behavior.”
  • Washington Post: “Tillis declines to say whether it’s appropriate for Trump to ask foreign countries to investigate his political rivals. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who faces a tough reelection battle in 2020, declined to say Thursday whether he believes it’s appropriate for Trump to ask foreign countries to investigate his political opponents.”

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