Rep. Fleischmann says he’s all in for Trump, went to Mar-a-Lago last week

Staff Photo by Ellen Gerst / Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Southea, speaks to the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023.
Staff Photo by Ellen Gerst / Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Southea, speaks to the Hamilton County Pachyderm Club on Monday, Nov. 27, 2023.

In a Republican Party whose divisions keep arising in the House, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, is still all in on Donald Trump.

Fleischmann spoke to Hamilton County Republicans at a Monday meeting of the Pachyderm Club in Chattanooga, touting his work on the House Appropriations Committee and warning party members not to underestimate Democrats in the 2024 election.

"Let's commit to this — we have got to beat Joe Biden, those radical left-wing Democrats who are destroying our country," Fleischmann said at the meeting.

Contacted for a response, state Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, said his constituents still tell him they think Biden is overall doing a good job, citing the president’s investment in chip manufacturing and calls for gun reforms.

“In order to be perceived as a true Trumper, these are the kind of things that elected officials in the Republican Party are expected to say and do,” Hakeem said by phone Tuesday.

Fleischmann said he blames the Biden administration for "just about everything" he can — "and they deserve it" — but said that they weren't to blame for recent delays in installing the new lock at Chickamauga Dam.

The White House's budget didn't include extra funding for the lock, since it (and everyone else) thought it had been fully funded, Fleischmann said. But cost overruns from the pandemic and a new construction company taking over the project meant another $237 million was needed to complete the lock.

At Fleischmann's direction, the House Appropriations Committee earmarked that money for the coming fiscal year. That will go through as long as members of Congress can agree on a budget, Fleischmann said.

Despite growing divisions in the Republican Party, Fleischmann said he thinks the budget will pass.

(READ MORE: Fleischmann among few Chattanooga-area lawmakers to back stop-gap federal funding measure)

"We need to have a talk about this as Republicans," he said. "We hurt ourselves."

Fleischmann said he stands at the middle road of the party and plans to keep supporting Republicans from the center to the far right.

"Do not underestimate what the Democrats can do," he said. "Their resolve is stronger than ever. ... We've got to unify."

All in

Fleischmann said he spent time one-on-one with Trump during an event last week at Mar-a-Lago and found the former president in great spirits.

"And I told him that I was going to be doing everything possible to make sure that he gets reelected," the representative said. "I know everyone in the room might not be where I am, but I'm going to tell you, I'm all in for Donald Trump. He's going to be our nominee."

Some Pachyderm Club members echoed the representative's support for Trump and said they're optimistic that he can win again in 2024 as long as the election is secure.

(READ MORE: Fleischmann touted '100 percent Trump' field of speaker candidates)

"We were in great shape three years ago, and now we're in worse shape," attendee James Ford said after the meeting.

Fleischmann praised Tennessee's elections and Secretary of State Tre Hargett for keeping the state's elections in check.

"I just thank God I live in Tennessee," attendee Rick Russell said after Monday's meeting.

Hakeem said he’s always had a good relationship with Fleischmann and sees his increasingly outward support for Trump as a way to stay relevant in the Republican party. The congressman is still community-oriented and has made himself available to help constituents, Hakeem said, including a recent case in which a local woman needed help with her Social Security payments.

“This is, in my view, something he has to do to legitimize himself with that group of people,” Hakeem said. “I’ve never known him to be extreme to the sense of demeaning others in politics.”

Divisions within the Republican party can present opportunities for Democrats, Hakeem said, and they can capitalize on popular support for women’s health and reducing gun violence — what Hakeem said are “basic issues.”

Fleischmann briefly ran for speaker of the House in the fall amid divisions in his party, and his texts to Trump touting his allegiance to the former president were shared by Trump on social media. The texts were true, Fleischmann said, and he has a good relationship with the former president.

"And ultimately," Fleischmann said, "we ended up with a very good gentleman for speaker named Mike Johnson from Louisiana. He's a good, good man. He's got his hands full."

Foreign affairs

Fleischmann is among an increasingly small group of Republicans still supporting sending military aid to Ukraine after it was invaded by Russian leader Vladimir Putin's forces.

"We cannot let Putin win," Fleischmann said. "We need accountability. We need to know where the money is going. Look, Ukraine is a corrupt country."

The representative said he's a longtime supporter of Israel, the largest recipient of United States aid. Fleischmann said he hopes to see strong supplemental aid for Israel pass and is shocked by the level of support for Palestine among Democrat voters.

"We will protect Israel and its right to exist," Fleischmann said. "They are our ally."

Hakeem said he and his constituents generally agree that “war is not good for any of us.”

Contact Ellen Gerst at or 423-757-6319.

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