QUOTE OF THE DAY
President takes aim at ‘fake news,’ Sen. Blumenthal
“I’m very concerned that the Department of Justice is weaponizing these laws for its personal and political ends, and specifically for the White House’s purposes.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., speaking on CNN about a crackdown on leaks, just before President Donald Trump began tweeting about him
BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump broke away from his summer vacation Monday for a barrage of Twitter posts criticizing the “Fake News” media and insisting that his political base was “getting stronger” despite investigations into possible collusion between Russia and his associates.
Rising early at his golf resort in nearby Bedminster, where he arrived Friday for the start of a 17-day escape from Washington, Trump vented his frustration that he is not getting sufficient credit for his political strength and the accomplishments of his 6-month-old presidency.
“The Trump base is far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phony Fake News polling). Look at rallies in Penn, Iowa, Ohio and West Virginia,” he said on Twitter in a string of messages. “The fact is the Fake News Russian collusion story, record Stock Market, border security, military strength, jobs, Supreme Court pick, economic enthusiasm, deregulation & so much more have driven the Trump base even closer together. Will never change!”
He added: “Hard to believe that with 24/7 # Fake News on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, NYTIMES & WAPO, the Trump base is getting stronger!”
Trump traveled to New Jersey while the West Wing undergoes a renovation to upgrade the air conditioning. The furniture has been removed from the Oval Office and most of the staff relocated to an office building next door.
The president, who has not been seen in public since arriving, cited this to argue that he was not really on vacation and noted that he will travel to New York for work during the second half of his getaway. He had earlier insisted that Congress not go on vacation until it passed legislation repealing and replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but the bill was defeated in the Senate and lawmakers have now left town.
“Working hard from New Jersey while White House goes through long planned renovation,” he wrote. “Going to New York next week for more meetings.”
His staff later reported that he received his daily intelligence briefing and held an hourlong call with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who updated the president about his trip to Asia and discussed North Korea with him. John Kelly, the new White House chief of staff, who spent the weekend in New Jersey with the president, also joined the call.
Trump’s boasts about his support among his base illustrated his focus on holding his core backers even as polls show that his approval ratings have continued to fall across the board.
His approval remains stronger among Republicans than the general public, though his support has fallen within his own party as well.
In his morning tweets, Trump went after some of his most consistent targets, including The New York Times and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
“The failing @ nytimes, which has made every wrong prediction about me including my big election win (apologized), is totally inept!” he wrote. He did not specify any particular article that angered him, though Vice President Mike Pence issued a sharp statement Sunday rejecting a Times story reporting that he was positioning himself to run for president in 2020 if Trump did not seek re-election.
The assertion that the newspaper apologized for its coverage last year is not true, but Trump has continued to say it even after being repeatedly corrected. In a letter to readers after the election, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, and Dean Baquet, the executive editor, wrote that the surprise election result raised a question: “Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?”
Trump has regularly assailed Blumenthal when he has seen him on television criticizing him.
Trump’s initial criticism Monday morning came shortly after Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was interviewed on CNN. The senator discussed several topics, including the Justice Department’s crackdown on leakers, new sanctions on North Korea and reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in his inquiry into Russia meddling and potential ties to the Trump campaign.
“I’m very concerned that the Department of Justice is weaponizing these laws for its personal and political ends, and specifically for the White House’s purposes,” Blumenthal said. He warned of a “chilling effect on the press and whistleblowers.”
The two-term Connecticut senator and former state attorney general credited the media for its reporting on the Trump administration. He said Mueller’s investigation must be pursued.
“The impanelment of the grand jury shows that Bob Mueller is pursuing this potential wrongdoing by the Russians, the attack on our democracy, seriously and diligently. There is no minimizing … that attack by the Russians,” Blumenthal said, before pointing out the “potential collusion by the Trump campaign and then obstruction of justice.”
He said “that investigation must be pursued.”
“Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”
Blumenthal received at least five deferments from military service during the Vietnam era and then went into the Marine Reserve, where he served in a unit in Washington. As a politician, he referred to himself as having “served in Vietnam” or “served during the Vietnam era.” The article exposing these false statements in 2010 did not, however, report that he told stories about Vietnam battles or conquests. Trump received five deferments from the draft: four for college and one for bad feet.
Blumenthal responded using Trump’s own favorite medium. “Mr. President: Your bullying hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. No one is above the law,” he wrote on Twitter. “This issue isn’t about me — it’s about the Special Counsel’s independence and integrity.”
Nine hours after the tweetstorm, Trump was back at it again, with a new broadside against Blumenthal via Twitter: “I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there.”