WASHINGTON ― An overlooked debate exchange may give a clue about why Republicans reportedly are writing off their Senate contender in Colorado: He can sound as conspiratorial as Donald Trump.
At a pre-primary forum in late June, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn was asked what the FBI could do to better address cases like that of Orlando massacre shooter Omar Mateen, who had for a time attracted the attention of the bureau before he killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub.
But rather than dig into what details were available about FBI procedures for monitoring suspected terrorists, Glenn suggested that perhaps President Barack Obama had interfered.
“What we’re finding out is the FBI actually has the tools, training, equipment to do the job, but it sounds like there might be some political things happening where they’re given direction to look a different way. Why don’t we start there?” Glenn said in audio from the June 22 event that was sent to The Huffington Post. (Listen to the entire answer in the clip above.)
“Why don’t we start by recognizing the fact that we have a commander in chief that won’t lead?” Glenn said.
On one hand, he was repeating a general conservative complaint that Obama makes the United States less safe because he won’t label terrorists the way Republicans want him to. But he also got downright Trumpian in suggesting, without evidence, that there could be direct interference by the White House in the handling of Mateen.
“I think we need to have hearings on this. I think people need to be held accountable,” Glenn said. “I want to know whether or not our FBI personnel were personally directed to look the other way. Don’t you want to know that?” Glenn said. “The president should be held to account for that if he gave direction that limited the FBI.”
He would hardly be the fist Republican to link Obama to the horrifying attack. Arizona Sen. John McCain blamed Obama for the shooting in the immediate aftermath before he was forced to backtrack and say it was just Obama’s policies.
But Glenn, who would eventually win a five-way Republican primary, was speaking some 10 days after the slaughter, and he sounded more like Trump, who repeatedly hinted at some sort of nefarious connection between Obama and the Orlando shooting.
The HuffPost Pollster tracking model finds Clinton with a widening lead over Trump in Colorado, most recently at 5 points. Recent tracking polls have incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet extending to a double-digit lead.
Katey Price, a spokeswoman for the campaign, did not specifically say whether or not Glenn felt Obama was personally responsible for Mateen’s rampage, but repeated the general position that law enforcement and the military could do better if only there were fewer restrictions on them.
“Our law enforcement and military have had their hands tied by the rules of engagement, making it nearly impossible to find the enemy, much less destroy them,” Price said via email. “We have a commander-in-chief who has politicized the threat of radical Islam both here and abroad, rather than calling them for what they are: terrorists intent on destroying us and our way of life.”
This post has been updated with comment from a Glenn campaign spokeswoman.