Specifically citing Trump’s press event with Vladimir Putin, Chris Gagin resigned Monday from his position as Chairman of the Belmont County, Ohio Republican Party.
While Gagin made it clear he is still a conservative at heart, he cannot support President Trump and therefore had to resign, saying “I did so as a matter of conscience, and my sense of duty,”
The President is entitled to GOP party leaders, at all levels, fully committed to his views and agenda. Following today’s press conference with Pres. Putin, as well as certain policy differences, most especially on trade, I could no longer fulfill that duty. Thus, I resigned.
— Chris Gagin (@cgagin) July 16, 2018
In addition to concerns about Trump’s relationship with Russia, Gagin cited policy concerns about Trump’s attitude toward trade. Trump’s aggressive tariff strategy has left America primed for another recession and has led to a stark rise in farmer suicides. Conservatives have not exactly been fond of tariffs, traditionally.
While trade and Putin were the explicit reasons Gagin resigned, it’s also true that Belmont Republicans hate leaving voices like his behind. Belmont was a traditionally Democratic county flipped for Republicans largely due to Trump’s popularity. In a fight seen as a proxy war for Trump against the establishment, Gagin’s ally Matt Borges (also backed by Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich) lost to Trump’s pick, Jane Timken.
But responses to Gagin’s resignation have been largely supportive.
Country over party. Thank you sir.
— Robert Paulson (@bootstrapp1ng) July 16, 2018
Thank you, Mr. Gagin, for standing up for what is right. I am sure you will get terrible criticism for this act. Know that there are those who are relieved to see someone in your position act honorably.
— Toni Thayer (@tkthayer) July 16, 2018
This is beyond political ideology or policy differences. The GOP needs to do more than just distance themselves from Trump.
— Global (@avlaraj) July 16, 2018
And Gagin isn’t alone.
In the wake of Trump’s conference with Putin, Congressional Republicans have started speaking out. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) stood with the consensus of the intelligence community that Russia did interfere in American elections counter to what Trump claimed in Helsinki. As did Mitch McConnell. John McCain said Trump’s presser with Putin was “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”
Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska), whose name has been floated as a primary challenger against Trump, issued a blistering statement.
“This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame. America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression,” he said. “When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs.”
But for one Ohio County Chairman, it was the bridge too far.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.