Ohio GOP official resigns over Trump’s news conference with Putin

A longtime Ohio GOP official abruptly resigned Monday over President Donald Trump’s comments during a news conference in Helsinki at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying “something snapped” during the conference.

“There just cannot be any confusion when the President, who has a sworn duty to protect and defend the United States, is there on foreign soil, 3 feet from Vladimir Putin, and he is openly taking the position of the Russian President over our intel community, and it was a point at which … something snapped,” Chris Gagin, formerly the chair of the Belmont County, Ohio, GOP, told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on “Newsroom.”

Belmont County is in the heart of Ohio’s coal industry and is considered emblematic of Trump’s political base.

“I thought that my only recourse, my duty as my conscience told me, was that I needed to simply resign because I could not in effect be the front man for the President here in Belmont County,” Gagin said Wednesday.

Gagin added that he is still a Republican and has no plans to leave the party, and he discouraged others who are dissatisfied with Trump from leaving the party and backing Democrats, as some prominent conservatives have done recently.

“I honestly don’t think that’s the right thing to do,” he said, “because it’s important for the Republicans to have that larger conversation within the family.”

Gagin also cautioned that Trump should be wary of alienating conservatives who are not part of his core base.

“I don’t have any illusions that my resignation’s going to change the base. It’s not,” he said. “What I think national Republicans have to think about is if you have moderate to establishment Republicans, and certainly those on the independent side that have conservative views, if the President starts to lose us, and I’m not saying that’s where it is at the moment … then the base alone’s not going to be enough to carry him through.”

Gagin said he does not regret voting for Trump in 2016 — citing the President’s Supreme Court nominees, Neal Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, as highlights — but that he may not vote for him in 2020.

“I think we’re going to have to see how the rest of this plays out, quite honestly,” Gagin said.