WASHINGTON — From his summer vacation spot at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., President Trump today tore into a Democratic senator who has sponsored one of the bills in the upper chamber intended to block the president from firing a special counsel without independent judicial review.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the legislation Thursday with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) before lawmakers left for the August recess. “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,” Blumenthal told CNN this morning. “And there is no minimizing or underestimating that attack by the Russians. It was purposeful and relentless and it involved propaganda and hacking into our voting machines, or at least an attempt to do it. And potential collusion by the Trump campaign, and then obstruction of justice. That investigation must be pursued.”
The senator, a member of the Judiciary Committee, added that “this grand jury investigation also involves the rule of law and fundamentally, Americans care about the rule of law.”
“And so, protecting Bob Mueller — through the legislation that a group of us on a bipartisan basis offered last week, requiring a three-judge panel — if the president threatens to fire Bob Mueller, I think it’s very important to protect and safeguard the independence and integrity of that investigation,” he added. Another bill to protect the special counsel was introduced by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.), which likewise requires judicial review before removing a special counsel and is retroactive to May 17.
Trump took to Twitter: “Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!”
“Never in U.S.history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal,” Trump continued. “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?”
During his first run for Senate in 2010, Blumenthal, then attorney general of Connecticut, was revealed to have given a 2008 speech in which he referred to having served in Vietnam. Blumenthal, who served six years in the Marine Corps reserves during the Vietnam War era but was not deployed to Vietnam, called his words “absolutely unintentional” during an explanation at a VFW post: “Now, on a few occasions I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that, and I take full responsibility,” he said. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.” He won over his GOP challenger, Linda McMahon, by 12 percentage points.
Blumenthal appeared on CNN after Trump’s tweets to respond, emphasizing “there is an ongoing special counsel investigation — it is real, it is based on facts … that’s where our focus should be. It is not about me.”
“I have no idea about what is in his mind. I will not be distracted by his bullying,” the senator added, explaining that his bill is intended to address a “looming constitutional crisis” if Trump tries to remove Mueller. “No one is above the rule of law, including the president. It is not about me, it is about upholding the rule of law and protecting our national security.”
Pressed on the content of Trump’s tweets, Blumenthal would not directly respond. “Let’s protect the independence and integrity of the special counsel; that work is paramount in importance. It really is not about me.”
Trump responded on 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.”
Blumenthal pinned a tweet to the top of his account: “Mr. President: Your bullying hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now. No one is above the law.”
Later, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told CNN that he didn’t think the Twitter exchange was “helpful” as Republicans need Democrats to get over legislative thresholds and pass Trump’s agenda.
“It’s tough if we get so personal with them,” Flake said. “…I would hope that we can settle down and work with each other.”
This story was updated Aug. 8 1:15 p.m. EST to reflect accurate legislative sponsors.