Republican Sen. Ben Sasse blasted U.S. President Donald Trump in a covertly recorded call with voters on Wednesday, airing a long list of criticisms rarely heard from an elected member of the GOP.
The senator from Nebraska accused Trump of botching the COVID-19 pandemic response, kissing up to dictators, flirting with white supremacists, spending “like a drunken sailor,” selling out U.S. allies and setting up a “Republican bloodbath” in the next election.
Sasse delivered a blistering nine-minute appraisal of Trump on Wednesday, during a telephone town hall with thousands of constituents in Nebraska. His office has confirmed the remarks made on the call, which were first leaked to the Washington Examiner.
“We are staring down the barrel of a blue tsunami,” Sasse said, while voicing fears that Democrats may gain control of the Senate after Nov. 3. “I’m worried that if President Trump loses, which looks likely, that he’s going to take the Senate down with him.”
The tirade started after Sasse was asked about his relationship with Trump.
“Why do you have to criticize him so much?” a constituent asked on the call.
Sasse said he agrees with Trump on several matters of policy, but he has a lot of issues with the president’s values. Sasse then rattled off a long list of his problems with Trump, including the president’s failure to protect Hong Kong and the Uighurs from China, his treatment of women and his refusal to condemn white supremacists groups.
“The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership,” Sasse said. “He mocks Evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”
Sasse accused Trump of treating the coronavirus pandemic like a “news cycle PR crisis” instead of a multi-year public health challenge. However, he also criticized media coverage for allegedly trying to pin the pandemic on Trump alone.
“I think he’s done some stuff well and some poorly, and I’ve been honest about that,” he said. He acknowledged that Trump has made several classically Republican policy moves, such as appointing many conservative judges. He added that he has worked hard to have a good working relationship with the president, despite their differences.
However, he said Republicans may come to regret supporting Trump in the long term, especially if they lose a generation of young people and women to the Democratic Party.
“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?” he said. “It is not a good idea.”
He also raised concerns that a Democrat-run Senate would add new states, eliminate the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court “Venezuela style.”
Trump has repeatedly praised the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and groused about his G7 allies, including Canada. He has also played down the threat of COVID-19, avoided condemning the far-right Proud Boys, allegedly supported China detention of Uighurs and plunged the country deeper into debt.