Republican U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse used a telephone town hall meeting with constituents Wednesday to excoriate President Donald Trump, alleging he “flirted with white supremacists,” privately mocks Christian evangelicals, and “kisses dictators’ butts,” all while mismanaging the national response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The way he kisses dictators’ butts. I mean, the way he ignores that the Uyghurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong Kongers,” Sasse said in response to a question about his relationship with Trump and his past criticisms of the president.
The Nebraska Republican, who is running for a second term, then claimed, “the United States now regularly sells out our allies under his [Trump’s] leadership,” before excoriating Trump for his treatment of women, comparing his social maners to that of a “drunken sailor.”
He alleged he criticized President (Barack) Obama “for that kind of spending I’ve criticized President Trump for as well,” then drew attention to the president’s alleged dealings with Christian evangelicals. He said:
He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with White supremacists.
The characterizations were first reported by the Washington Examiner, which obtained audio of the call and released it online.
They continue a theme he first broached back in August when, as Breitbart News reported, Sasse criticized Trump’s executive orders to halt the government’s collection of payroll tax, and provide $400 federal unemployment checks to Americans.
“The pen-and-phone theory of executive lawmaking is unconstitutional slop,” Sasse wrote in a statement, complaining Trump “does not have the power to unilaterally rewrite the payroll tax law.”
Trump was quick to respond:
RINO Ben Sasse, who needed my support and endorsement in order to get the Republican nomination for Senate from the GREAT State of Nebraska, has, now that he’s got it (Thank you President T), gone rogue, again. This foolishness plays right into the hands of the Radical Left Dems!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2020
Sasse offered no evidence to back his most recent claims as he weighed into Trump’s “stupid political obsessions.”
He complained during the call the president’s political style could work against his efforts to win over women and young voters in the future. He said:
If young people become permanent Democrats because they’ve just been repulsed by the obsessive nature of our politics, or if women who were willing to still vote with the Republican Party in 2016 decide that they need to turn away from this party permanently in the future, the debate is not going to be, you know, ‘Ben Sasse, why were you so mean to Donald Trump?’
Warming to his theme of the unsuitability of Trump for high office, Sasse posed the question: “What the heck were any of us thinking that selling a TV-obsessed narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea?’ It is not a good idea.”
The senator also criticized Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying he doesn’t think the president’s leadership during the crisis has been “reasonable or responsible.”
“The reality is that he careened from curb to curb. First, he ignored Covid. And then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this, and that was always wrong,” he said. “So I don’t think the way he’s led through Covid has been reasonable or responsible or right.”
You can listen to the entire exchange below:
Sasse spokesman James Wegmann said the call occurred Wednesday.
AP reports two other Nebraska Republicans, U.S. Rep. Dan Bacon and state GOP executive director Ryan Hamilton, told the Omaha World-Herald they disagree with Sasse’s characterizations of the president.
“Senator Sasse is entitled to his own opinion,” U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith, another Nebraska Republican, said in a statement. “I appreciate what President Trump has accomplished for our country and will continue to work with him on efforts which help Nebraska.”
Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh declined to comment on Sasse’s comments, the World-Herald said.