LATE UPDATE Tuesday March 7, 2017 3:42 pm: In a phone interview, J.D. Gordon again disputed Diana Denman’s version of events, and said reports that he has changed his story about his degree of involvement in the Ukraine amendment she proposed were a “leap.” “I didn’t change the platform nor did I say I did,” Gordon said. Instead, Gordon recalled, he spoke privately with RNC national security subcommittee chairman Steve Yates during the meeting in which the amendment was discussed, and told him that language about providing Ukraine with “lethal defensive weapons” was a “problem” because it broke with Trump’s statements on wanting improved relations with Russia and not wanting to go World War III over Ukraine. He said Yates told him they would have a “robust discussion with delegates, and that was it.”
“[CNN’s] Jim Acosta took that to mean I pushed for the amendment,” Gordon said. “I mean, what’s the definition of pushed for the amendment, right? It’s an issue of semantics.”
Original story below:
Until Thursday, the Trump campaign team’s official line was that it played no role in softening language regarding Ukraine in the GOP platform during the Republican National Convention last summer in Cleveland.
But then J.D. Gordon, the Trump campaign’s national security policy representative at the RNC, told CNN that he had personally advocated for altering an amendment on Ukraine, providing vindication to the Republican delegate who initially proposed it.
“That’s a pretty big leap, isn’t it?” Diana Denman, a former Vice Chairwoman of the Texas Republican Party who served as a delegate for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) at the convention (pictured above), told TPM in a Friday phone call. “J.D. is the one that stopped it and pulled it.”
Denman’s original amendment calling for the U.S. to provide “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine was tabled after Gordon and Matt Miller, another campaign official who’s since gone to work in Trump’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs, intervened, saying they needed to “clear it with New York,” according to her version of events.
Denman has told a consistent version of this story to outlets including Business Insider, the Washington Post and TPM. Gordon, however, had denied intervening, telling Business Insider in January that her version of events was “inaccurate.”
Then CNN’s Jim Acosta reported on air late Thursday that Gordon told him he was part of the Trump campaign’s “successful” effort to alter the language on Ukraine, which ultimately offered “appropriate assistance” rather than weapons. Going further, Acosta said Gordon told him he intervened on behalf of Donald Trump to include language the then-candidate “himself wanted and advocated for” regarding Ukraine.
Denman called Gordon’s intervention and initial denial of her account “very unfortunate.”
“Gordon said my memory of it was inaccurate. Come on now,” Denman said in her San Antonio twang. “I come from Texas; and I shoot straight; and I believe in a strong policy on defense and the military. I don’t play games with people.”
Idaho Republican Party Chairman Steve Yates, one of the RNC’s national security subcommittee chairmen, told TPM it was “legitimate” for Trump staffers to question platform details and said he didn’t remember whether they requested that it be tabled.
Yates said that other committee members took issue with the militaristic language and that Denman’s amendment was set aside because it was “too long, too specific, too operational.”
“One campaign guy talking to one or two people in committee can’t change the vote,” he said, noting that the committee approved an amended, “more general” version of Denman’s proposal.
TPM’s requests for comment from Gordon, the RNC and the other two committee co-chairs were not immediately returned Friday. A White House spokeswoman also did not respond to a request for comment on Gordon saying Trump advocated for the watered-down language in the amendment.
Asked if she recalled Trump staffers intervening to table any other amendment put before the national security committee, Denman said, “That’s the only one.”
Denman supported Trump’s campaign and said she likes “what he wants to do to strengthen this country,” but acknowledged the Ukraine amendment controversy remains a cloud over the administration.
“It certainly has not gone away, that’s for sure,” she said. “It just keeps brewing, it simmers and the pot boils over again and this has gone on since the convention.”