Donald Trump has hit back at a Republican senator who said the United States president “flirted with white supremacists”, treats the presidency like a “business opportunity”, and “kisses dictators’ butts”.
Ben Sasse, a senator from the state of Nebraska and one of the few Republicans to regularly criticise Trump, made the comments last week during a teleconference with constituents. He also criticised the president for not initially taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.
On Saturday, Trump fired back, calling Sasse the “least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great”.
Sasse “was as nice as a RINO can be until he recently won the Republican nomination to run for a second term”, Trump tweeted, referring to the senator as a Republican In Name Only, a derogatory label among conservatives.
The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a State which I have gladly done so much to help. @SenSasse was as nice as a RINO can be until he recently won the Republican….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2020
“Then he went back to his rather stupid and obnoxious ways. Must feel he can’t lose to a Dem. Little Ben is a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska. Other than that, he’s just a wonderful guy!” Trump wrote.
The harsh words elicited little response from Sasse, whose spokesman told USA Today the Senator, who is seeking a second term in the US Senate, is “not going to waste a single minute on tweets”.
While several high-profile Republicans initially opposed Trump’s presidency in 2016 in what was then dubbed the “never-Trump” movement, some of those early critics, including House Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, have become close allies of the president.
However, some Republicans running for re-election this year have sought to distance themselves from Trump, fearing his divisive style and apparent mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic may hurt them at the polls.
“His weakness in dealing with (the) coronavirus has put a lot more seats in play than we ever could have imagined a year ago,” Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster and consultant, recently told the New York Times.
“We always knew that there were going to be a number of close Senate races, and we were probably swimming against the tide in places like Arizona, Colorado and Maine,” he added. “But when you see states that are effectively tied, like Georgia and North Carolina and South Carolina, that tells you something has happened in the broader environment.”
In his comments to constituents last Wednesday, Sasse bluntly voiced that concern.
“I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate,” Sasse said, “and that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump train.”