Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, who was in Denver to speak at a Colorado Chamber of Commerce event, would not say whether he felt it was appropriate for the President of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival.
It's the question at the heart of the impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.
In response, Colorado's Democratic Party said the senator refused to "say the obvious."
"Instead of being an independent voice speaking out for what's right, Gardner is regurgitating partisan talking points and putting his own political interests ahead of protecting our democracy," said spokeswoman Alyssa Roberts.
Gardner criticized the House process and said he believes the bipartisan Senate Intelligence committee is the best avenue for investigation — although the Constitution does state the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." The Senate, however, has the "sole Power to try all Impeachments."
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen is a very political process take over,” Gardner said to a group of reporters at the Westin Hotel in downtown Denver, where the chamber held its event.
“This is a serious time, a very serious investigation, let’s have that investigation," Gardner said.
After repeated questioning, the conversion with reporters got somewhat heated.
"Why is it that when you all do stories and we see reports in the news it's about four states, Colorado, Arizona, Maine and North Carolina," he said. "Seems to be about politics and elections other than the serious process that it is."
Gardner is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election in 2020 in a state that President Donald Trump lost.
And the video of Gardner’s testy encounter with the media quickly went viral, garnering close to 1 million views in just a few hours. A reporter for Bloomberg News Sahil Kapur tweeted the video calling it “remarkable” that Gardner “declined to say five times” whether it was OK for a foreign country to investigate a political rival. Trump liked Kapur’s tweet.
Later Gardner’s remarks to CPR News did diverge from the president’s when he said the whistleblower’s anonymity should be protected.
“That’s clearly important,” he said.
But ultimately he said he’s not ready to answer the underlying question on foreign interference.
"Too many people want answers on facts that simply aren't available," Gardner told CPR News. "And too many people want to partisan-ize this and use it for political gain and political purposes. And I just don't think that's right."
The Colorado chamber was hosting its annual luncheon “Business Elevated: Industries Driving the Colorado Economy.” Gardner gave the keynote address where he touched on his efforts to bring the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction, the impact of the outdoor economy, and the opening of the U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. He also lamented how divided the country is and said too many people are focused on “the fight.”
“We seem to get away from what has made this country great,” Gardner told the audience of business leaders. “And that’s the men and women in this room who have created so many jobs.”
A subsequent panel with business executives and Gardner included a discussion on how to lower health care costs while keeping employer-provided health insurance intact and the impact of government regulations on job growth. This was one of Gardner’s final events before he heads back to Washington, D.C., on Monday.
On Wednesday, Gardner was in Fountain to discuss infrastructure projects, and on Friday he’ll be in Colorado Springs meeting with local businesses and officials.
Several other members of Congress hosted or attended events Thursday including Democratic Reps Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow and Republican Rep. Scott Tipton. Earlier in the week Democratic Rep. Joe Neguse held a town hall.