President Donald Trump went after Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper on Twitter Wednesday morning, sharing with his 71.4 million followers Republican attacks on the former Colorado governor.
Trump was on a tear on Twitter from Davos, Switzerland, where the president was attending an economic forum as impeachment proceedings got underway back home — tweeting and retweeting more than 60 times about a host of topics, everything from retweeting a fan who called a Democratic senator a "dishonest hack" to the president's declaration that his visit to Switzerland had been a "Very successful (for USA) trip!"
Amid the torrent of tweets posted overnight, the Tweeter in Chief took time to blast Hickenlooper for spending taxpayer dollars to defend against an ethics complaint filed by Colorado Republicans.
"This has really come full circle for @Hickenlooper," reads a recent tweet sent by the National Republican Senatorial Committee that was retweeted by Trump. " ... First, it was accepting private jet rides and luxury hotel stays that got him an ethics trial, Now, it's taking CO federal funding/taxpayer $$ to pay legal fees for aforementioned ethics trial."
This has really come full circle for @Hickenlooper... First, it was accepting private jet rides and luxury hotel stays that got him an ethics trial.Now, it's taking CO federal funding/taxpayer $$ to pay legal fees for aforementioned ethics trial. #COSen #copolitics pic.twitter.com/UhJ7pOMwjN— The Senate Majority (@NRSC) January 17, 2020
Trump also retweeted three other NRSC broadsides aimed at Hickenlooper on the same topic.
Hickenlooper is the front-runner in a crowded primary to challenge Trump ally U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, the Republican senator who could be facing the longest odds for re-election this year.
In a fundraising email sent Wednesday morning, the Hickenlooper campaign fired back.
"We always knew the attacks from Trump were coming. But President Trump waking up in Switzerland and tweeting misleading smears about John was not something we expected to wake up to this morning," the Hickenlooper campaign wrote.
"President Trump attacked John Hickenlooper no less than FOUR times on behalf of our opponent, Senator Cory Gardner (R) last night. There’s no doubt in our minds this was just a political reward for Gardner voting against allowing firsthand witnesses and evidence in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial yesterday."
Late into the night on Tuesday, Gardner, who endorsed Trump a year ago, voted numerous times with Senate Republicans on party-line votes to rebuff the Democrats' attempts to subpoena witnesses and documents on the first day of Trump's impeachment trial.
Hickenlooper has been under fire for months from Republicans over reports that his administration has been paying his legal fees in the ethics case from a fund made up of federal dollars sent to the state 16 years ago to help Colorado recover from a recession.
The complaint alleges Hickenlooper improperly accepted some travel expenses when he was governor — including a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, in a portion of the complaint that was thrown out because the trip fell outside the statute of limitations.
Hickenlooper maintains that the travel expenses he accepted fall under exceptions in the law, and that he reimbursed the rest.
The state's Independent Ethics Commission has set a hearing date for the case in March.
It's routine for the state to foot the bill to defend against ethics complaints brought against government officials.
Former Secretary of State Scott Gessler — who unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination to run against Hickenlooper in 2014 — cost the state more than $500,000 in legal expenses in a protracted fight against a complaint that he used government funds to attend a partisan political event, for instance.
Tuesday's barrage of tweets isn't the first time Hickenlooper has been the president's target on Twitter.
In a tweet after Hickenlooper joined the Senate race in late August after ending his presidential campaign, Trump heaped praise on Gardner and added: "John Hickenlooper is badly damaged after his horrible run for President. Big Primary trouble!"
"@realDonaldTrump wasted no time last night attacking me and defending his rubber stamp, Cory Gardner," Hickenlooper tweeted back. "Will you chip in now and help me hold them accountable?"