'You're not answering!': Key Republican senator flails and grows combative as reporters ask a simple question about Trump
Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado is one of the GOP's most vulnerable senators heading into the 2020 elections, which has made his positioning regarding President Donald Trump and the groundswell in favor of impeachment particularly interesting to watch.
But as video from a gaggle with reporters on Thursday showed, he's not managing the crisis well. Multiple reporters repeatedly asked him whether he thinks it's appropriate for the president to ask foreign countries to investigate his political opponents, as Trump did when he pressured Ukraine to launch a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden. The senator refused to answer.
Gardner kept trying to turn the topic to the supposedly partisan nature of House of Representative's impeachment inquiry, the Senate's own investigation of the matter, and the fact that the press has focused on the implications of impeachment on the 2020 election.
"Why is it that when you all do stories, or we see reports in the news, it's about four states: Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina?" Gardner demanded of the reporters, citing states where sitting Republican senators are vulnerable next year. "Seems to be about politics and elections, other than the serious process than it is."
This was a clear and desperate dodge, for several reasons. First, Gardner is exaggerating. While some coverage has focused on the electoral implications of impeachment, much more has been about the content of the investigations and the nature of Trump's conduct. Gardner is revealing the pressure he's under by suggesting that the press is obsessed with the implications on the next election; the truth is, it's almost certain that electoral considerations are his central concern.
Second, there's nothing wrong with focusing on the impacts of impeachment on elections. It's an essential part of covering the story, and electoral politics are intrinsically linked to constitutional checks and balances on the president. And of course, impeachment is an inherently political process — which is why Republicans are so insistent on dodging tough questions on the topic, rather than just being forthright about it.
And third, Gardner's criticisms of the press have nothing to do with the actual question he was asked, which is a pertinent topic about the substance of the impeachment debate: Is it OK for a president to induce a foreign country to investigate his opponent? Gardner said that was what the Senate's investigation is about, but that's false; the investigation is about the facts of what happened in the Ukraine case. He doesn't need the results of the investigation to answer a general question about principles, duties, and what constitutes an abuse of power. And, for that matter, the basic facts aren't even in question: Trump had admitted what he did, and Gardner should be able to speak about those actions without waiting for the results of an investigation.
"Is it OK for you to ask a foreign—" a reporter began to ask.
"Look, you know what I have said before!" Gardner shot back, clearly growing irritated.
"But you're not answering!" the reporter responded. "We want to hear from you."