Hagedorn refrains from criticizing Trump over McCain controversy

March 24, 2019

U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn declined to criticize President Trump for a weeklong series of attacks on John McCain, who has been dead seven months, saying it wasn’t his place to “chime in on whether the president is saying or doing the right things.”

Trump has lashed out at the late senator from Arizona, in speeches and tweets, abusing the former POW for voting against the repeal of Obamacare while also complaining that he did not receive proper gratitude for McCain’s funeral last September.

“You have to ask the president what his strategy is on some of these things. It’s a political deal,” Hagedorn said Thursday during a visit to Rochester. “I basically support his policies, because they’ve been my polices for many years.”

Hagedorn was in Rochester as part of an effort to visit every one of the 1st Congressional District’s 21 counties since being elected to Congress last November. The Republican congressman made stops to The Place, Meals on Wheels and the University of Minnesota Rochester.

He weighed in on a number of issues — including Trump’s recent budget, the Green New Deal, the president’s national emergency declaration seeking more dollars for a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico, and the New Zealand massacre.

Hagedorn said he plans to vote to sustain Trump’s veto of a national emergency declaration that would allow him to divert more dollars to building a wall. Last week, a resolution drawn up by House Democrats seeking to overturn the president’s executive action passed in both Houses, but the measure lacks the votes to overcome his veto.

Democratic and conservative critics have argued that such a national emergency could open the door for a Democratic president to declare national emergencies over liberal priorities, such as climate change or gun violence.

Hagedorn said he supports the president’s efforts to solve the border “problem once and for all.” Even without an emergency declaration, Hagedorn said, Trump has the authority to reprogram and redirect dollars from the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and elsewhere. Nobody is disputing that authority, just the declaration of emergency.

“I support him on it, because at any time in the last 40 years, any president could have declared that what’s going on along the southwest border is an emergency,” Hagdorn said. “It’s an invasion of sorts.”

Hagedorn said he didn’t support a 2,000-mile wall, but he did believe building fences and physical structures can be effective in some places, just as they have been in San Diego, where illegal immigration has dropped after construction of a 30-mile fence.

“Nobody thinks we need 2,000 miles. They’re talking about 700, 800 miles,” Hagedorn said. “Reinforce what they have, but it’s become a political issue. The Democratic Party, especially (Speaker Nancy) Pelosi and (Chuck) Schumer, don’t want the president to have any legislative victories.”

A staunch gun rights supporter, Hagedorn said it was New Zealand’s “prerogative” to ban military-style assault weapons following the massacre of 50 people at two mosques, but it shouldn’t be an example the U.S follows.

“My position is the same. It’s going to remain the same,” Hagedorn said. “I support the Second Amendment, the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms for self-protection and other lawful purposes.”

Hagedorn campaigned on supporting and working with the president, but he did draw the line on Trump’s recent budget proposal, which seeks cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

He called Social Security a retirement program that people pay into, and a “promise made needs to be a promise kept.”

He said he did support common sense measures and reforms to strengthen the programs, but “until the other party decides they’re not going to use those programs as political weapons, I recommend that we just continue to move forward as is,” Hagedorn said.