Sens. Blackburn and Hagerty and Rep. Fleischmann named to Trump’s 2024 Tennessee leadership team

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., speaks at a rally for then-President Donald Trump on Oct. 1, 2018, in Johnson City, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., speaks at a rally for then-President Donald Trump on Oct. 1, 2018, in Johnson City, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

NASHVILLE — Republican U.S. Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty, as well as four fellow GOP House members from Tennessee, are backing Donald Trump's 2024 presidential bid, the Trump campaign announced Monday, saying the six lawmakers are part of Trump's Tennessee federal leadership team.

Other members of the Tennessee leadership group — and endorsing the former president — are U.S. Reps. Chuck Fleischmann of Ooltewah, Diana Harshbarger of Kingsport, John Rose of Cookeville and Mark Green of Portland.

Not on the list of Tennessee endorsers were U.S. Reps. Tim Burchett of Knoxville, Scott DesJarlais of Sherwood, Andy Ogles of Culleoka and David Kustoff of Memphis.

"Under President Trump, our economy was booming, gas prices were low, and inflation was under control. Our border was secure, our adversaries feared us, & our military was strong," Blackburn said on Twitter. "I am proud to endorse Donald Trump for President and can't wait until he's back in the White House."

Hagerty, Trump's former ambassador to Japan, weighed in as well.

"The mandate for a strong America has never been clearer," he said, "and I look forward to working again with President Trump to help our great nation find its way back from the precipice to the exceptional role we can and must play as a nation."

Fleischmann also issued a statement on his support of returning the former president to office.

"During his presidency, he created economic growth, enforced law and order at our southern border, promoted energy independence, fought for our conservative values and most importantly, President Trump put Americans first," Fleischmann said. "I believe Americans deserve that again."

Trump and the federal delegation were in Nashville during the weekend attending a Republican National Committee donors' retreat at the Four Seasons Hotel in Nashville.

Other 2024 presidential hopefuls, including former Vice President Mike Pence, attended the conference, making their pitch to wealthy donors and groups.

Trump's campaign issued a statement Monday:

"At the retreat, he met with and received strong support from Tennessee's Republican Congressional Delegation. As his polling leads across the country continue to expand at historic margins, President Trump remains committed to building a campaign of America First patriots that will win the 2024 Tennessee Republican Presidential Primary."

The endorsements come as Trump is under indictment in a Manhattan court on charges related to a 2016 hush-money payment made on his behalf to a porn star as he was running for president. The former president pleaded not guilty during his arraignment this month to the 34-count indictment of falsifying business records related to the alleged payments.

The former president also faces a federal special counsel's investigation related to his efforts to reverse his 2020 re-election loss. Trump also faces legal problems in Georgia from a special purpose grand jury investigation involving his Jan. 2, 2021, phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. During the conversation, which was recorded, Trump pressed him "to find 11,780 votes."

A Justice Department special counsel is also overseeing investigations into the possible mishandling of classified documents and presidential records at Trump's Florida estate, as well as the department's Jan. 6 investigation of the Capitol riot during the counting of electoral votes.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, a Republican and former U.S. ambassador to Poland, said there's a reason for Trump pressing for such endorsements.

"Trump desperately needs sitting members of Congress to endorse him," said Ashe, noting Trump helped Hagerty in his 2020 GOP primary battle against Manny Sethi.

But Ashe added, "I would remind the two senators the reason they're in the minority in the U.S. Senate is thanks to Donald Trump's endorsement of the five incredibly inadequate and unqualified candidates for U.S. Senate, all of whom lost," citing former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker among them.

"While they may like what he did as president, I'm sure today they would be chair of Senate subcommittees if not full committees if we'd kept two of those five seats. Just two. ... I think that's very harmful to the country."

That said, Ashe added, both senators and the four representatives can do as they wish.

"And in Tennessee, it's risk-free," Ashe said, noting GOP dominance in the state. "But I assume they'd like to win back the Senate and the endorsement of Trump is a step backwards from that, based on the experience."

Efforts to reach out to Blackburn and Hagerty were unsuccessful as was an attempt to reach Fleischmann through a campaign spokesman. So were efforts to reach out to several other Republican House members through their congressional offices or campaign spokespersons.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee briefly attended the RNC's donor gathering Friday, where he gave welcoming comments to kick off the event and then left.

In February, Lee attended a Palm Beach, Florida, event four miles away from Mar-a-Lago, the private club and home of Trump, who endorsed Lee in the businessman's successful 2018 and 2022 bids for governor.

But it wasn't for a Trump event. It was a gathering of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' top donors and supporters. Trump was also holding a competing event at the time, The Wall Street Journal and others reported.

A Lee spokeswoman at the time told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that as the Republican Governors Association's vice chairman, "Gov. Lee meets with fellow governors and conservative leaders often, and enjoyed joining Gov. DeSantis' summit for the second time to showcase how Tennessee and Florida are America's blueprint for opportunity, security and freedom."

DesJarlais spokeswoman Alex Swisher said the congressman will make his decision in 2024 when he assesses how things are "shaping up" in the presidential campaign. In Feburary 2016 the congressman endorsed Trump.

Contact Andy Sher at or 615-285-9480.

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