TROY, Ohio — Facing vocal liberal critics in a district that Donald Trump won by 34 percentage points, Republican Rep. Warren Davidson on Tuesday urged the president to seek congressional approval for further escalation of U.S. military involvement in Syria.
Davidson, a Freedom Caucus member who claimed the seat former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) gave up last year, told constituents at a 90-minute town hall that he supported Trump’s air strike last week against an airfield controlled by Syrian President Bashar Assad. But Davidson questioned Assad’s motivations for using chemical weapons against his own citizens, speculating that it "could be a false flag" — an unfounded theory put forth by conservative commentators — and warned against a military intervention in the Middle East that could mire the U.S. as Iraq did.
"One of the big things we have to get back to doing is following our Constitution," Davidson told the crowd. "Article One gives Congress the power to declare war."
About two-thirds of the packed town hall, sponsored by a local conservative group, donned pro-Trump stickers or vocally supported Davidson’s conservative voting record. But a sizable contingent of the crowd turned their initially quiet opposition to Davidson and Trump into a full-blown noisy walkout halfway through the event, storming from the room after Davidson claimed that "all of the promises" made by Obamacare "have been false."
Organizers of the town hall did not attempt to restrict attendees from outside Davidson’s district, which is heavily GOP-leaning, and a local chapter of the anti-Trump protest group Indivisible asked members to attend.
In supporting Trump’s air strike but calling for a return to congressional authorizations for war, Davidson aligned with Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-S.C.), who made similar comments to local media on Tuesday. He also praised both the House and Senate intelligence committee investigations into Russia’s 2016 election meddling, probes that are poised to include Moscow’s ties to the Trump campaign and administration.
"They create fake news articles, they create partially true news articles," Davidson said of Russia. "You can’t blindly say ‘Trump good, critics bad’ — there’s fact here that says Russia is doing bad things around the world."
The former Army Ranger didn’t shy away from controversial comments throughout the town hall, observing at one point that he left the military service out of frustration with competing doctrines: one aligned with Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain ("Surely, we can go to war with someone this week’") and the other aligned with former Secretary of State John Kerry ("Air conditioners are a bigger threat than ISIS").
Davidson also faced some flak from the crowd after defending his support for cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood and his opposition to federal aid for the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. "That’s Flint’s problem, and if nothing else, it’s Michigan’s problem," he said.
"I catch a fair bit of grief from the whip for not voting party line," Davidson told the crowd at one point, adding that if anyone disagrees with his approach, "then there’s an election every two years."