Republican Senator Ben Sasse is under fire for speaking very critically of President Trump during a campaign call with his constituents.
Sasse, who often defends the president and who is currently helping to confirm his Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, described him as “TV-obsessed” and someone who “has treated the presidency like a business opportunity.”
During the call with his potential voters, the Republican Senator said he and the president are very similar on some issues but they have several other areas where they disagree.
“There’s obviously a lot of places where he and I differ as well, and these aren’t just mere policy issues, and I’m not at all apologetic for having fought for my values against his in places where I think his are deficient, not just for a Republican, but for an American,” Sasse said, as Axios reports.
The Nebraska Republican continued: “The way he kisses dictators’ butts. I mean, the way he ignores that the Uighurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang. Right now, he hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong-Kongers.”
“The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor,” he said via Axios. “He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”
“I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate, and that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump train,” Sasse added, via NBC News.
Sasse then spoke critically of Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“But 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. I mean, and so I don’t think the way he’s lead through COVID has been reasonable or responsible, or right.”
Sasse concluded: “The debate is not going to be, ‘Ben Sasse, why were you so mean to Donald Trump?’ It’s going to be, ‘What the heck were any of us thinking, that selling a TV-obsessed, narcissistic individual to the American people was a good idea?'”
Why it matters: The comments mark one of the sharpest criticisms of the incumbent president at a time when many Republicans fear his unpopularity could cost them the White House, Senate and House.
Between the lines: Sasse, who was endorsed by President Trump in 2019, is running for re-election in Nebraska, where the president currently leads over Joe Biden by eight points, according to a recent Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.
James Wegmann, Sasse’s spokesperson, confirmed the contents of the call and defended them as necessary to secure his re-election.
“Even though the Beltway is obsessing exclusively about the presidential race, control of the Senate is ten times more important, the spokesperson said. “The fragile Senate seats that will determine whether Democrats nuke the Senate are the races Ben cares about, the races he’s working on, and the only races he’s talking about.”