Asked if he thinks President Donald Trump ― who disdains notions of virtue on a near daily basis ― is an ethical and moral man, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) replied in the affirmative.
“Yes,” Gardner said Tuesday during a debate in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race. He added: “I wish he would be more specific in his communications with the American people.”
Gardner’s steadfast defense of Trump stands in sharp contrast to his condemnation of Trump’s morals in October 2016 following the release of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. At the time, Gardner said he could not vote for Trump because his flaws went “beyond mere moral shortcomings” and because he showed a “disdain for dignity unbecoming of the presidency.”
Since then, Gardner has fully embraced a president who lies on a regular basis, amplifies racist tweets, insults minorities, attacks veterans, celebrates violence against reporters, enriches himself and his family with taxpayer funds, issues pardons to corrupt allies and officials, and encourages white supremacist groups, among a long litany of other incendiary actions.
Just in the past few weeks, Trump has demanded his attorney general arrest his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, called Biden’s vice presidential running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) a “monster,” shared a photo mocking Biden and seniors, and promoted a conspiracy theory falsely alleging that the Obama administration covered up a plot to stage Osama bin Laden’s death involving the late terrorist’s body-double.
It’s not clear what part of Trump’s “communications” Gardner would like him to be more specific about, as he called for in Tuesday’s debate. The Colorado Republican did offer one suggestion, urging the president to commit to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the November election, after Trump declined to do so last month.
“The president should be crystal clear. Every single person in this country should be crystal clear. There will be a peaceful transition,” Gardner said.
Gardner is one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents, trailing in the polls behind his Democratic opponent, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who said in Tuesday’s debate he did not believe Trump to be an ethical and moral man.
Hickenlooper’s campaign said Gardner’s embrace of Trump showed how he “put his own political interests ahead of what’s best for Colorado.”
“Coloradans watching last night’s final debate were appalled but not surprised by Cory Gardner’s latest cowardly refusal to utter a single word of criticism about Donald Trump. ... The biggest joke of the night was Cory Gardner claiming he works for Colorado — we all know he sold us out for Trump years ago,” Hickenlooper spokesperson Alyssa Roberts said in a statement.
One Republican did speak out against Trump’s recent behavior on Tuesday ― Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. The former GOP presidential nominee, who, unlike Gardner, isn’t on the ballot in November and likely feels less pressure in speaking out against Trump, lamented the state of American politics as “a vile, vituperative, hate-filled morass” and called on leaders on both sides of the aisle to turn down the temperature.
“The President calls the Democratic vice presidential candidate ‘a monster;’ he repeatedly labels the speaker of the house ‘crazy;’ he calls for the Justice Department to put the prior president in jail; he attacks the governor of Michigan on the very day a plot is discovered to kidnap her,” Romney said in a statement.
“The rabid attacks kindle the conspiracy mongers and the haters who take the small and predictable step from intemperate word to dangerous action,” he added.