Littwin: Cory Gardner, I’ve got some questions

When we last heard from Sen. Cory Gardner in any detail on Donald Trump, it was a month before the election and Gardner had released a statement calling Trump “a candidate whose flaws are beyond mere moral shortcomings and who shows a disgust for American character and a dignity unbecoming of the Presidency.” Gardner said he wouldn’t vote for such a man and would write in Mike Pence’s name instead.

Those are, uh, pretty tough words, and a lot has happened since. Trump won the election, of course, to nearly everyone’s (presumably even Gardner’s) surprise. Trump is known to hold a grudge (See: Romney, Poor Mitt). Gardner will lead the Republican National Senatorial Committee for 2018, meaning he’ll be charge of getting GOP senators re-elected in the first post-Trump election cycle and also meaning, in all likelihood, he’ll find himself having to defend the Trump presidency and the GOP Senate’s role in its success or failure.

So, like you, I have questions. But since Gardner’s office seems to have a policy of never returning my calls  — can’t imagine why — I figure I’ll write the questions down, making it easier on everyone. They can just email me the answers. Or text me. Or use Instagram, or telegram, or send it via the KGB. It’s all good for me.

So, we’ll start with the vote. Did Gardner, in fact, write in Pence’s name? Didn’t he care that a Pence write-in wouldn’t be counted? When did he know Trump was going to win, and did he consider calling Greg Norman to get Trump’s number to congratulate him early?

Where does he stand now on Trump? Assuming nothing has happened to change his mind on Trump’s morality or dignity or Twitter account, what does he think the Electoral College should do on Monday? Write in Pence? Vote for someone/anyone else? Would Cory accept a draft? Or is he now trying to get a seat on the Trump bandwagon?

A Washington insider (well known to Gardner) told me that Gardner’s best near-term hope is for Trump to implode and quickly. Given that Trump often sets the implosion stage, but nearly always to no visible effect, what does Gardner think is his best bet in making Trump forget that Gardner walked out on him at the RNC and dumped him, in a strongly worded statement on Trump’s lack of character, in October? (Advice: If Trump invites Gardner over for frog legs, Cory should insist that the press isn’t invited for a photo-op.)

Some have suggested a good start would be to roll over on Rex Tillerson, the ExxonMobil CEO and Friend of Putin who is Trump’s nominee to be the next secretary of state. As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and a well-known Russia hawk, Gardner will be among those senators in the spotlight in Tillerson’s confirmation hearing. A Washington Post report suggests that Gardner, as a good GOP soldier, is a sure Tillerson vote. A FiveThirtyEight report says that Gardner could be a key senator in opposing Tillerson. What do you say to those who haven’t closely studied Gardner’s career who expect him to stand up against a sitting president of your own party? Crazy, huh?

Let’s get back to the Russian hacking. (Trump says it may have been a 400-pound guy in his basement. But, if so, do you think the 400-pounder speaks Russian?) The New York Times says Trump was, in the Lenin phrase, Putin’s “useful idiot.” Paul Krugman thinks that’s too limiting — and that those Republicans who didn’t stand up to the obvious hacking and leaks to Wikileaks in real time were the true useful idiots. Looking back, does Gardner think it would have been useful for him to have condemned the hacking in stronger terms and maybe even suggested it was a greater scandal than which email server Clinton used? I’m still trying to remember what Gardner said when Trump (jokingly?) invited the Russians to hack Clinton’s emails.

In recent days, Trump has been tweeting — lying — that the Obama administration had nothing to say about the Russian hacks until after the election and are now saying it to de-legitimize the election. This is, of course, easily contradicted by the facts. Does Gardner worry that Trump lies so casually so often? Whose responsibility does he think is it to call him out on these lies, particularly Trump’s tweet that millions of Americans had voted illegally? Does Gardner agree with those intelligence agencies who believe the Russians were trying to help Trump get elected? Does he think Trump should address the seriousness of that charge with something beyond a tweet?

Another big issue is the Trump Organization, the Trump kids and conflicts of interest. As Gardner knows, Trump canceled a news conference this week in which he was going to lay out how he would handle his business affairs as president. I’m assuming he’ll come up with a plan around the same time the GOP comes up with a plan to replace Obamacare. What are Gardner’s thoughts here? Does he agree with Trump that presidents can’t, by law, have conflicts of interest? Does he agree with Trump that blind trusts don’t have to be actually blind? Has he done any studying on the impact of the emoluments clause? Can he spell “emoluments” without looking? Does he have any problems with Ivanka Trump sitting in on meetings with heads of state? Or Eric Trump, who will presumably run the business with his brother, interviewing cabinet candidates? And, most importantly, how much would he pay to have a cup of coffee with Ivanka?

Finally, Barack Obama says the United States “will retaliate” against Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. Does Gardner think he will? And if he does, what does he think Obama should do? For that matter, what does he think Trump should do? I’d like to know because many people are saying (as Trump would say) they’re worried that Gardner, already in the Trump doghouse, won’t have the nerve to say anything at all.


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr 


  1. Thanks Mike for this column about Gardner. Good questions. People have been asking this guy questions for the last few months via his Facebook page. He answers to no constituent. His posts are a joke — he’s hit every charter school function and Boy Scout jamboree in Colorado. I want to know his votes affecting many issues, including Medicare and social security. Guess I’ll be watching a lot of CSPAN to figure that out. He simply does not communicate to Colorodoans because he’s afraid of us, you in particular. Gardner is such a coward.

  2. Clown car gets Secret Service escort.

    “Trump is getting hammered in the polls. The betting markets have him down to 14 percent. Meanwhile, media types — like me — who predicted that Trump would never even make it to a vote in Iowa are reluctant to look foolish by writing him off again, even though it seems increasingly clear that the strategy that won him the GOP nomination is the only strategy he knows and that it can’t work in a general election.” – Mike Littwin August, 2016

    Glad to hear Mr. Littwin has gotten over his advanced case of Trumpitis but the symptoms may linger for eight years.

    When Judge Wiley Daniel denied a temporary restraining order to stop Colorado from enforcing a state law that says electors must vote for the presidential candidate who won the state he characterized it as “a political stunt” and he was right. He also said electors wanted to vote for someone else, “for reasons that don’t make sense to me.” He’s not alone.

    The effort of these Colorado electors long ago crossed the line separating quixotic from idiotic.

    While Mr. Littwin has many questions for Sen. Cory Gardner I have only one question for Mr. Littwin: When will you write a column revealing why Mrs. Clinton lost an election that, at one point, Nate Silver gave her almost a 90 percent chance of winning (90 percent!!) against an opponent using a strategy you said “can’t work in a general election.”

    During Mr. Littwin’s tenure as a sportswriter he had no problem playing Monday morning quarterback but seems extremely reluctant to play that same role with Mrs. Clinton’s stunning loss. No post-mortem? No autopsy report? Really?

    The so-called Electoral College controversy and the so-called popular vote controversy are both non-stories designed to help Mr. Littwin avoid discussing how President-elect Trump won the election.

    This is as close as Mr. Littwin has come to offering an explanation for Mrs. Clinton’s loss, “I’ve thought long and hard about how this whole Trump phenomenon could have actually happened. After much consideration and basically getting nowhere, I decided it must have all been a fevered dream, took my pills and went back to sleep.”

    So is that it? The “fevered dream” theory? Is that the only explanation Mr. Littwin can offer to those loyal readers who hang on his every word? And if so, how can Mr. Littwin ever claim again, “I’ve always had a pretty good handle on politics. For one thing, it’s not that complicated.” ?

    Mr. Littwin has written entire opinion columns on non-political figures such as Barry Bonds, Tim Tebow, Joe Paterno and even the death of Clarence Clemons but somehow seems unable/unwilling to discuss how Mrs. Clinton could have lost to a man who, if she had the chance, would have hand picked as her Republican opponent.

    Mr. Littwin wrote an entire column on an eye-roll but seems unwilling to devote the same amount of space to explaining how Mrs. Clinton lost to an opponent Mr. Littwin described as “the perfect long-awaited foil”. Mr. Littwin devoted an entire column to Mrs. Clinton when she became the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major political party saying, “The story is that Clinton has won, has made history and, in doing so, seems to have found her voice.”

    So why does he seem so reluctant to write a column on how that story ended and how in the name of Susan B. Anthony it could have ended that way? How could Mrs. Clinton have lost to a crypto-fascist? How did Mrs. Clinton lose an election that all the polls suggested she was a lead-pipe cinch to win?

    Zach Carter at had no problem discussing why Mrs. Clinton lost:

    “Clinton ran against the single most unpopular candidate in the history of American presidential polling, and lost. Was this because Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee? Because FBI Director James Comey recklessly interfered? Because a tiny fraction of the electorate voted for Jill Stein? Because Clinton didn’t really bother to campaign in the Rust Belt? Why, yes! In an election decided by 110,000 votes, just about every factor can be considered decisive.
    This year, Democratic elites decided that the entire white working class was unworthy of sharing their company.
    The town of Nelsonville, Ohio, went for Barack Obama by 40 points in both 2008 and 2012. It’s 94 percent white, and, as Dave Jamieson reported for The Huffington Post, Trump narrowly carried it in 2016. Is this because Nelsonvillers are all morally repugnant slime? A lot of them were enthusiastic about the Trump Wall. But somehow the Democratic Party was OK with these same people voting for Obama, twice. This year, the party decided it was above such compromises.

    Democratic elites cleared the nomination field for a candidate who was being criminally investigated by the FBI, a woman with a nine-figure net worth who was still pursuing six-figure Wall Street speeches when she announced her presidential bid. Her “identity politics” record with the black and brown working class was awful. She had supported her husband’s racist welfare reform and crime legislation, and warned against the threat of black “super-predators.” The problems weren’t all ancient ’90s history. In 2014, Clinton said that child refugees seeking asylum in the United states “should be sent back.” And, you know, the Iraq war thing.”

    Or how about this from David Brock founder of Media Matters for America and political operative in

    “And (Mr. Brock) thinks Democrats should adopt another GOP strategy: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that Republicans should rebuild their party by fighting everything Barack Obama proposed to make him a one-term president.

    Brock, an edgy former Clinton hunter-turned-defender, is expressing an opinion increasingly being shared by many on Clinton’s campaign team: They shouldn’t have bothered to defend the endless and endlessly damaging email story – they should have refused to defend it all and pivoted to a harsh, attention-grabbing attack on her real opponent: the press.

    “Look, this is a lesson learned,” Brock told me for this week’s episode of POLITICO’s “Off Message” podcast. “Donald Trump intimidated the press and bullied the press. I’m not saying you have to intimidate and bully, but you have to be tough. The press are animals and they need to be treated that way.”

    Come on Mr. Littwin, fill this column with your brilliance. How did Mrs. Clinton lose?


    “Let’s start at the beginning, March 2009, but a few weeks after the first inauguration of Barack Obama, when a smiling Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the red “reset” button, signaling the arrival of a supposed era of peace between the two countries. The new administration was greeted with hosannas for their great symbolism from their loyal claque at the New York Times, Washington Post, NBC, et al., who were oblivious, needless to say, that the word “peregruzka” printed in Cyrillic on the button, thought to mean “reset” in Russian by the linguistic geniuses in our State Department, was actually the word for “overload.” “ –

    “Who is responsible for fake news?
    “Maybe blame Facebook? Or maybe blame the fact that, I dunno, journalists haven’t been doing their jobs.”
    The examples of journalistic incompetence are so broad and so deep that I don’t even know where to begin. To take a recent example, how about that paragon of fact-driven journalism PolitiFact, which rated “mostly false” Donald Trump’s assertion that Hillary Clinton wanted “open borders,” even though a speech where she had said “I dream of open borders” had just leaked. Remind me who’s doing fake news again?
    Or how about how from the moment Trump won the Republican nomination, whole swathes of the press suddenly awoke to discover the fact that America’s white working class had been hit hard by globalization, technological change, drug addiction, and other phenomena, and hurriedly sent its Brooklyn-based college graduates on safaris to discover what, exactly, that strange species believed and did.” –

    “Clinton, after all, was the one who used a secret server to circumvent transparency. She was the one who sent unsecured classified documents on that server. She was the one who attempted to destroy the evidence related to this investigation. She was the one who lied to the American people about it. And Clinton was nominated by Democrats, who never seriously entertained any another candidate.

    Of course, there will always be overarching theories about why Republicans win elections – like assuming half the country are racist.” –

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Memorial Day – May 29, 2017

  3. I am a ‘simple’ socialist who began as a normal Republican in No. CA,’46, but shifted initially to Democrat about ’56—then, cynically, to socialism—due displeasure with Capitalism, & still.

    I AM seeking a, ‘political-insight’ publication: onTarget/ concise—whearas Yours IS-‘Wordy’, attempting-‘Cleverness’—where ‘More’, is NOT-Better: rather, wastes-Time. fc

  4. Expecting answers from Sen. Gardner: how quaint.

    Stock phrase from a couple of his letters in response to my efforts to get him to consider additional points of view or bits of (outrageous) information about nominees he will be voting on seems to be “your concern will be taken into consideration.” Not exactly a specific or compelling reaction.

    I will be stunned if Gardner opposes a single Trump nominee. His career appears to be premised on “make no waves.”

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