When President Donald Trump visits a St. Louis suburb on Wednesday to talk about tax cuts, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley will make sure he’s among the elected officials there to greet him.
Hawley, the GOP’s top recruit to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill next year, was heavily criticized by some conservatives for skipping the president’s last visit to Missouri in August for a family vacation.
That criticism was amplified by the fact that his political mentor, former Missouri Sen. Jack Danforth, had just days before the president’s August visit publicly called for Republicans to disavow Trump.
This time around, the first-term attorney general appears eager to share the stage with the president.
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“I look forward to hearing President Trump talk about his tax reform plan that will bring much needed relief to Missouri families,” Hawley said in a statement. “I support the President’s plan; it’s unfortunate that Claire McCaskill sides with Washington’s elite while leaving Missouri behind.”
Danforth said in a telephone interview on Monday that he supports Trump’s tax plan and approves of Hawley’s decision to attend the event Wednesday.
“I do. You know, I don’t think that it’s his role, and I’ve kind of made this clear, that everybody in elected politics should just flail away against Trump like I do. I think it’s just fine,” he said.
“I think if he were to miss this too people would say, ‘Well, that’s a statement, and I don’t think he wants to make that kind of statement at all.’ ”
Hawley has worked hard since entering the Senate campaign to court the so-called establishment Republicans without alienating Trump voters who helped the president carry Missouri by 19 percentage points last year.
So far his efforts have borne fruit, as he’s earned the support of GOP leaders in the U.S. Senate as well as the endorsement of former White House strategist Steve Bannon.
Unsurprisingly, his rivals for the GOP nomination are still not impressed.
“I am happy to see that the attorney general is finally supporting President Trump and his agenda to Make American Great Again by attending this week’s rally. It’s about time,” Tony Monetti, another Republican seeking the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, said in a statement to The Star.
Trump on Wednesday afternoon will speak in St. Charles, a suburban community 25 miles northwest of St. Louis. The details of his visit have not yet been made public.
When he visited Missouri in August, Trump was launching his administration’s push to overhaul the nation’s tax code. The U.S. House has since passed its version of the bill, while the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on its version as early as this week.
During his August visit, Trump urged Missourians to vote McCaskill out of office in 2018 if she didn’t support his administration’s tax plan. McCaskill recently voted not to advance the Senate GOP’s version of the tax bill to the floor as a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee.
“I wanted to support real tax reform. This isn’t it — this is a bad deal for Missouri families,” McCaskill said in a statement after her vote. “Working people in Missouri deserve better than to get scraps, while corporations and wealthy business owners make out like bandits.”
Hawley has embraced the president’s tax plan, calling it “the right way forward.”
It wasn’t immediately clear on Monday how many other Republicans who hold statewide office in Missouri would make it to Trump’s remarks.
Gov. Eric Greitens didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Lt. Gov. Michael Parson’s office said he’ll miss Trump’s visit because he’ll be in Washington for the National Lieutenant Governors Association conference. Parson is scheduled to present his “Buy Missouri” initiative to boost local businesses.
Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt, a Republican from St. Louis County who repeatedly sponsored tax cut legislation during his time in the state Senate, will be attending and will be part of the greeting delegation.
“I’m excited to welcome the president to Missouri to talk about the opportunity to spur economic growth by fixing America’s broken and outdated tax code,” Schmitt said in a statement to The Star.
Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft also will attend.
“I am glad President Trump will be coming to Missouri again to talk about a much-needed tax reform plan which will empower American families to build better lives for themselves and their children,” he said.
Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt plans to attend, his office said, if the Senate’s schedule allows.
Neither McCaskill’s office nor her campaign responded to a request for comment Monday. But the Missouri Democratic Party issued a statement panning the Republican tax plan.
“Higher taxes on millions of middle-class Missourians. More expensive healthcare. Less money in the pockets of seniors ...,” Missouri Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Webber said in the statement. “That’s exactly how Donald Trump’s tax scam rips off working families in Missouri while also giving away handouts to billionaires and millionaires.”
The Star’s Bryan Lowry and McClatchy’s Anita Kumar contributed to this report.