Washington – President Donald Trump has disparaged other U.S. senators, but no one has been targeted more than Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who perhaps for a number of reasons — both political and personal — has gotten under the president’s skin.
Trump has questioned Arizona Sen. John McCain’s status as a Vietnam war hero in a tweet, derided Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as “little Marco,” and lobbed other insults at U.S. senators in the twitterverse.
But it’s Blumenthal who has drawn the most fire.
After spotting Blumenthal on CNN on Monday suggesting the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 elections, Trump unleashed a series of tweets starting in the early morning and ending mid-afternoon — mocking the Democratic senator for misrepresenting his military record.
“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,” Trump said in his last tweet on Monday.
During his first campaign for the Senate, it was reported that Blumenthal had in 2008 implied that he’d served in Vietnam, even though he had not actually been deployed abroad as a member of the Marine Reserve. Blumenthal apologized for his misleading statements. Trump never served in the military, receiving deferments for education and bone spurs in his feet.
Monday’s tweets were the third time Trump attacked Blumenthal for his military record, and these attacks have come every three months since the president was sworn in in January.
On Feb. 9, Trump attacked Blumenthal after the senator said-Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch h had told him that Trump’s attacks on federal judges were “disheartening.” Trump had recently attacked a “so-called judge” for blocking his travel ban.
On May 10 Trump attacked Blumenthal after the senator appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to call for a special prosecutor to investigate possible collusion between members of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government.
Blumenthal says he doesn’t know what is prompting Trump’s attacks, like the one that consumed the president all day on Monday.
“I have no idea about what is in his mind,” said Blumenthal on CNN late Monday afternoon. “What I do know is I will not be distracted by this bullying.”
Blumenthal is one of the most liberal senators in Congress and often appears on television to criticize Trump’s policies.
He is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Trump in June that alleges Trump violates the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Blumenthal is also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that is pressing hard to investigate whether there was any link between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 elections and was one of the first lawmakers to say there may have been collusion.
“Blumenthal has been through his career a prosecutor, and that may make him particularly irritating to Trump,” said Ronald Schurin, a political science professor at the University of Connecticut.
Schurin also said Trump may think Blumenthal’s gaffe on his service during the Vietnam war makes him “an easy target” and is an issue that “lends itself to Trump’s style of attack.”
As far as alienating Connecticut voters, Schurin says the attacks by the president aren’t likely to shake Blumenthal’s substantial popularity in the state.
“But nationally, people who are on the middle on Trump may be influence by those kinds of attacks” to discredit Blumenthal’s collusion charges, Schurin said.
As far as Blumenthal, he’s using the attacks to help raise funds for his re-election campaign in 2022.
On Tuesday his campaign sent a blast e-mail to supporters that said Trump’s Twitter attacks began “right after the Senator addressed the dangers of politicizing the Department of Justice during a CNN interview” on Monday.
“But Trump’s tweets can’t change reality. There is a federal special counsel investigation. It is real. It is based on facts,” the fundraising appeal said. “Let’s make one thing clear: Senator Blumenthal will not be distracted from doing all he can to protect the rule of law in our nation.”
Trump also has clashed with Blumenthal’s in-laws over a high-profile Manhattan real estate deal.
Blumenthal has been married for 35 years to Cynthia Malkin, daughter of real estate magnate Peter Malkin.
Trump and Peter Malkin were antagonists in a heated battle over ownership of the Empire State Building. In the end, Malkin bought out Trump’s interest in the iconic building.
“The Malkins and Trump were very much rivals over the Empire State building,” said Peter Slatin, a specialist in the New York commercial real estate market.
More recently, son Anthony Malkin, CEO of Empire State Realty, said he is worried Trump’s travel restrictions on people from certain Muslim countries could hurt tourism in New York.