Trump Takes Aim at Wyoming GOP Establishment in Radio Interview

Under fire were Cheney, Gordon and Barrasso, as the former president continues to see himself as a GOP kingmaker

  • Published In: Politics
  • Last Updated: Jan 16, 2023

Former President Donald Trump took aim at Gov. Mark Gordon and Sen. John Barrasso in a new interview with a conservative Wyoming broadcaster. (House Select Committee photo via AP)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Though his hold on the Republican party may have started to wane, former President Donald Trump’s love affair with Wyoming lives on — and in a new interview, he signaled his intent to continue remaking state politics in his image.

In his conversation with conservative media host Jeff Wallack for his “Wyoming Is Right” radio program that aired Saturday on KIX 96.5, Trump remarked several times how he “loves” Wyoming, which broke for him in the 2020 election by a higher margin than any other state in the nation. He also promised he’d be back to visit; Trump most recently traveled to Casper last May to campaign on behalf of Rep. Harriet Hageman.

Trump was quick to take credit for the ouster of former Rep. Liz Cheney, one of his top critics, who he described as a “sick individual.” And he repeatedly praised Hageman, who he endorsed to take on Cheney: “A lot of people would not have been able to [beat Cheney],” Trump alleged. “They might have won because the other one is so unpopular, but [Hageman] did it with a great way, a great prestige.”

But after characteristic screeds about unproven claims of voter fraud and criticisms of President Joe Biden, Trump went on to criticize some of Wyoming’s most popular politicians, including Gov. Mark Gordon and Sen. John Barrasso.

The interview demonstrates that though many Republican leaders are beginning to ponder a post-Trump future — especially after a dismal midterm election cycle in which the GOP fared far worse than expected — Trump continues to view himself as a kingmaker, punishing anyone who he sees as not sufficiently friendly to the MAGA movement.

Governor Mark Gordon speaks to a joint session of the 67th Legislature in the House Chambers at the Wyoming State Capitol on January 11, 2023 in Cheyenne. Photo by Michael Smith

By naming his next opponents, Trump seems intent to put them on notice. But unlike the recent success he saw with Hageman, Trump may soon find that his new opponents aren’t as easy to dethrone.

Trump knocks Gordon on crossover voting

Midway through the interview, Trump took aim at Gov. Mark Gordon. He described the Republican governor as “a very liberal guy” and added that “I don’t think he represents the [state’s] values.” Trump blamed Gordon for the failure of the state legislature to pass a bill last year banning crossover voting, instead allowing the policy that enables individuals to switch party registration up to and on primary election day to stand. The legislature will consider a similar measure to ban crossover voting this general session.

“The governor led us along,” Trump said. “That’s the way he gets in, you know, he gets a crossover vote,” he went on to claim.

Representatives for Gordon did not respond to inquiries about Trump’s remarks.

Gordon, recently voted the most popular governor in the country, has previously spoken about the pressure he received from Trump to ban the practice, noting he received “a couple of phone calls” from the former president pushing him to change the law, though he has no such ability.

In the GOP gubernatorial primary debate last summer, Gordon said he believes “Republicans oughta vote in Republican elections and Democrats oughta vote in Democratic elections,” but acknowledged that “people in Wyoming have the opportunity to make their choices, and right now the law says that they can do that” when asked if Democrats should support him in the election.

Gordon “led us along like he was going to be able to do it. And then all of a sudden, at the very end, he said, ‘I can’t get the votes necessary, which I didn’t believe,’” Trump said in the interview.

Trump has been public with his distaste of Gordon for some time now; he told a Wyoming broadcaster last year that “you have a governor that has not been too helpful, I must tell you.”

Gordon, for his part, has rebuffed the former president, declining to endorse Hageman in the GOP congressional primary race and opting not to speak at Trump’s rally in Casper.

“Governors typically don’t get involved in races, and I’m [not] going to do that now,” Gordon said in the GOP debate last summer. “When President Trump called me and said, ‘Please come to my rally,’ I said, ‘I’m glad to meet you at the airport, President Trump, but I am not going to take sides in this particular race,’” he added.

After bashing Gordon, Trump heaped praise on state Sen. Bo Biteman (R-Ranchester), one of the most conservative lawmakers in the state legislature. 

“I’d like to see him run for governor, maybe,” Trump said. “But you got to press him, because I would have liked [him to have run] last time, I would have endorsed him,” Trump added.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks, accompanied by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., right, during a media availability after their policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jess Rapfogel)

Biteman did not respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks nor his future political aspirations.

Trump: Barrasso a “flunky” for McConnell

Beyond Gordon, Trump also bashed Sen. John Barrasso, the dean of the Wyoming Congressional delegation, third-highest ranking Republican in the Senate and most popular U.S. Senator according to a new survey.

“I used to like Barrasso a lot,” Trump said in the new interview, but “then I realized he’s just a rubber stamp for Mitch McConnell.”

“You know, I sort of think he’s a good man, but he turned out to be really a flunky for Mitch McConnell. And Mitch McConnell is just a disaster,” Trump added.

Among Trump’s criticisms of McConnell was his support for the $1.7 trillion federal spending bill — a measure Barrasso failed to vote on as he was out of town with his wife who was receiving treatment for cancer.

Barrasso has continued to obfuscate on questions related to Trump. After Sen. Cynthia Lummis said she believed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — and not Trump — was the “current leader of the Republican party,” Barrasso said only that he “plans to support the Republican nominee for president.”

Barrasso also declined to criticize Trump for suggesting last year that it was “common sense” for rioters who broke into the Capitol to chant “hang Mike Pence”; Barrasso said only that “I don’t agree with President Trump on everything.”

“President Trump brings lots of energy to the party. He’s an enduring force. Elections are about the future, not the past,” Barrasso told ABC News late last year. His office did not respond to a request for comment on Trump’s latest critiques.

Asked about Lummis, Trump highlighted that she was the person to “strongly recommend” Hageman to take on Cheney, something he saw as a success. And even after Wallack brought up conservatives’ frustration with Lummis for her vote to support same-sex marriage protections, Trump remained mostly positive.

“I hear little things like, maybe she said wrong statements, maybe she made some incorrect statements,” Trump posed. But “I got along with her very well,” he said.

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