UPDATE: Sen. Cory Gardner joins Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and most of the Senate GOP in saying nay:
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado joined a growing number of GOP leaders Monday afternoon in criticizing President Donald’s Trump decision to pull out of northern Syria, abandoning Kurds who have been fighting the Islamic State there.
“I am deeply concerned that this decision fails to protect allies who gave their lives alongside our troops to accomplish U.S. objectives and fails to facilitate our continued efforts against ISIS,” Gardner said in a statement his office sent The Denver Post in response to an interview request.
It could be the start of a great unraveling–but like we said earlier (below), why does this decision trouble Gardner more than President Donald Trump extorting Ukraine and hitting up the Chinese for help winning the 2020 election? If and when Gardner does definitively walk away from Trump, he’s going face pointed questions about his judgment going all the way back to October of 2016 and the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Also…does this mean no more Trump fundraisers like the one Gardner spent the weekend attending?
It’s a day of reckoning that’s getting closer. In the meantime, expect more carefully-worded statements in lieu of interviews.
NBC reports on the other case of Trump administration pressure on a foreign government to give the President a leg up against possible 2020 Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden–improper requests made of the government of the People’s Republic of China similar to demands put to Ukraine, while the United States is mired in a trade war with China among numerous other foreign policy disputes like the status of Taiwan:
The invitation to the Chinese government, denounced by Democrats and excoriated by two Republican senators, mirrored the private behavior on which the House is partially basing their formal impeachment inquiry — using the office of the presidency to press a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. Trump has defended his actions in recent days by saying he has a right, even a duty, to root out “corruption” around the world.
But much like the president’s Ukraine conspiracy theories, the serious accusations that Trump and his allies, including personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, have leveled against the Bidens with regard to China are unsupported. All the details of Hunter Biden’s business dealings aren’t known, since he has always been a private citizen, but there’s no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of either Biden. Trump and his allies has yet to offer evidence of the claims, while the former vice president has said the president is the one who is corrupt…
Building on the baseless claims that the former vice president — now a leading contender for the Democratic nomination in 2020 — corruptly used the power of his office to boost his son’s business interests in Ukraine, Trump began making similar unfounded allegations related to China.
As we discussed last week, Sen. Cory Gardner’s service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has frequently put Gardner in the position of making strong statements of support for Ukraine in particular as a primary victim of Russian aggression in recent years. Gardner has also repeatedly criticized the People’s Republic of China for human rights violations, territorial aggression in the South China Sea, and above all Gardner’s allegedly fervent support for the small-d democratic government of Taiwan in that territory’s decades-long existential standoff with the PRC.
The crisis is expanding, but the question remains: how can Cory Gardner remain silent while Donald Trump plays havoc with all these countries Gardner says he cares so much about? It’s worse than Gardner having to play second fiddle to Trump on North Korea while Trump gives away the farm. This is happening because Trump pursued electoral leverage against his opponent from foreign powers–something Gardner claims to despise after the 2016 elections, though he refuses to connect the dots everyone in the world can see clearly.
In the last 24 hours, Trump’s announcement that U.S. troops will exit Syria and effectively abandon Kurdish allies in the country to their fate at the hands of hostile powers on all sides, especially Turkey, has dropped yet another major foreign policy controversy in Gardner’s lap. To be fair, Gardner hasn’t been nearly as vocal on defending the Kurds as the Ukrainians or the Taiwanese–but he did cosponsor an amendment and called publicly for arming the Iraqi Kurds in their fight against ISIS.
Gardner isn’t making the press rounds to defend Trump, but he hasn’t risked even the restrained criticism other vulnerable Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine are finding necessary over the Ukraine and China “requests” either. If Gardner chooses abandoning the Kurds as his moment to break with Trump, he’ll immediately draw the question of why this suddenly matters more than the foreign policy crises directly involving the President that have raged for over two weeks now–involving countries Gardner has paid so much more attention to in the past. And of course, if Gardner stays silent and something terrible happens to the Kurds…well, obviously, that’s bad too.
Whatever happens next, Colorado’s junior Senator has proven himself to be hopelessly behind the curve: either unwilling or unable to show leadership when it’s needed most. For anything other than belated damage control that will fool no one, it’s already too late.