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August 22, 2018 10:44 AM UTC

Gardner Lashes Himself to Trump, Now and Forevermore

  • by: Colorado Pols
Sen. Cory Gardner (right) waves to onlookers behind President Trump ahead of a campaign event in West Virginia (Aug. 21, 2018)

Tuesday, August 21 will go down in history as the day that a sitting President of the United States was named as a co-conspirator in a criminal activity that could ultimately lead to the end of his administration. As John Dean, former White House counsel for Richard Nixon, told Bloomberg News: “I think we’ve established today that we have a criminal president, and that is historic.”

The history books will likely pay less attention to the political fate of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma), but Tuesday was a monumental day for Colorado’s junior Senator nonetheless. Gardner was riding with the President on Air Force One when news broke that two former Trump associates — onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort and former personal attorney/fixer Michael Cohen — had been convicted of serious crimes that could foretell doom for the Trump administration. When Trump descended from Air Force One for a campaign rally in West Virginia, he was followed by West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and a smiling, waving Gardner. 

The significance of this moment for Gardner is unmistakable. For months Gardner has been inching closer to Trump’s inner circle. Small admonitions have morphed into demonstrations of blind loyalty. What we saw on Tuesday was just the final step. Gardner permanently hitched his political wagon to Trump when he descended from Air Force One behind the President, grinning and waving on the tarmac just before Trump addressed the media on the Manafort/Cohen bombshells.

President Trump and Sen. Cory Gardner greet supporters on the tarmac at an airport in Charleston, West Virginia.

As Bloomberg News reports, Gardner was apparently a source of comfort for Trump on the darkest day of his Presidency to date:

Aboard Air Force One en route to West Virginia, Trump watched Fox News coverage of the Manafort verdict and Cohen’s plea, two people near him said…

…But there was no joking around on Air Force One like there sometimes is.

People close to the president reassured him and shared ways to deal with fallout from double-barreled bad news. What Trump was most interested in: How it’s all playing.

Aides were aware Tuesday was a very bad day and were relieved the president wasn’t sitting in the White House residence tied to the television for the evening. His travel companions, Congressman Alex Mooney and Senator Shelley Moore Capito, both of West Virginia, and Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, distracted him with conversation about legislative issues and other topics, the people added. [Pols emphasis]

You can also bury any excuse that Trump or Gardner weren’t aware of the severity of the moment. Politico’s Lorraine Woellert was part of the press gaggle on Air Force One:

As the plane throttled for takeoff, everything hit: Trump’s former campaign manager had been convicted of a felony and the president’s onetime fixer was turning against him in a campaign corruption case.

This wasn’t just a case of terrible timing for Gardner, either. Gardner was with Trump in West Virginia in part because of his duties as Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), though Gardner did not accompany the President on similar recent campaign stops in North Dakota and Indiana. Gardner didn’t need to be with Trump on Tuesday, but there he was.

Later, at a campaign rally for Republican Senate candidate Patrick Morrisey, Trump made a point of acknowledging Gardner from the podium. Said Trump:

This is a man that makes a promise and it’s 100% good. He’s tremendous and has done so much. He’s from a place called Colorado. And he’s helping to lead our campaign to elect more Senate Republicans, like the man we’re going to elect in West Virginia. Cory Gardner. Thank you, Cory, thank you. [Trump looks to his left and pumps his fist enthusiastically] Great job. You’re doing a great job. Thank you.

Trump is still planning to run for re-election in 2020. As far as we know, so is Gardner.

The political futures for these two Republicans are now intertwined. For better or for worse, Cory Gardner is an official member of Team Trump.


10 thoughts on “Gardner Lashes Himself to Trump, Now and Forevermore

  1. I wonder. Certainly I expect the public to perceive Gardner as tied to the president, but is that what he is doing? Observers can get too tied up in chess theories, but maybe Gardner is really doing one for team Republican by babysitting.

  2. Oh, I'm sure Baghdad Mod will be along to tell us that Cohen committing Campaign Finance violations at the direction of Donald Trump does not make it illegal for Donald Trump.

  3. Which campaign organization picked up the "equivalent costs" of a round trip ticket for the outing, DC to Charleston? Trump 2020? NRSC? Morrisey's campaign? Gardner's campaign fund? 

    I'm certain the $250-$500 expense isn't much — but it may be worthwhile to clarify who is responsible for these optics.

  4. What strikes me as odd is that despite Trump's obviously grim expression and dark mood, Cory is sporting his ever-present Cheshire Cat grin.  The wheels are always turning in his mind to plan how and where to land next on his feet.  Maybe the Kochs will take him back?

  5. I like Pols image of him being lashed to the mast in the storm as the ship goes down hoping he will make it to shore.  Nah-uh Cory.  You will last longer but you are never going to see the promised land of re-election

  6. What's a word for "opportunist to the 100th degree?" Cory is 24/7 about Cory.

    He just doesn't realize yet that lashing himself to the #TrumpsterFire mast on a sinking ship does not lead to anything good for himself. Knowing what we all knew was coming down on Tuesday, he should have told Dear Leader – right before the plane took off – "Sorry, I have a headache, can't go."

    But instead he makes the trip, and forever has himself tied to Trump, the (so far) unindicted co-conspirator. One of many examples of Cory-bad-judgment over the past few years (remember his lovely photo op with Duterte, his many failures to hold public meetings with his constituents, etc).

    Hey, if you're thinking of running for US Senate against Cory in 2020, hang onto this video clip.


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