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Trump blasts Sen. Blumenthal for backing Russia probe: 'Now he judges collusion?'

·Senior Writer
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  • Richard Blumenthal
    United States Senator from Connecticut
  • Donald Trump
    Donald Trump
    45th President of the United States

President Trump tore into Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Monday after the lawmaker was on CNN criticizing the administration’s crackdown on leaks, saying the Russia investigation “must be pursued” by both special counsel Robert Mueller — and the free press.

“Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!” Trump tweeted from his golf course in Bedminster, N.J. The president is spending the next two weeks there on what he insists is a working vacation while the White House undergoes renovations.

“Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal,” Trump continued. “He told stories about his Vietnam battles and ……. conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?”

Blumenthal responded in a pair of tweets.

“Mr. President: Your bullying hasn’t worked before and it won’t work now,” Blumenthal wrote. “No one is above the law.”

“This issue isn’t about me,” he added. “It’s about the Special Counsel’s independence and integrity.”

In 2010, Blumenthal apologized for repeatedly claiming he had served in Vietnam after the New York Times reported he obtained at least five military deferments between 1965 and 1970 to avoid going to war.

“On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that,” Blumenthal said at the time. “I take full responsibility, but I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of military service.”

Trump avoided the draft by receiving five deferments, including one for what he described as bone spurs in his heels.

It’s not the first time the president has raised the issue of Blumenthal’s military service.

In February, Trump brought up the seven-year-old controversy after Blumenthal revealed that Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s then nominee for the Supreme Court, had called the president’s criticism of judges “demoralizing” and “disheartening.” He did so again in May after the Connecticut Democrat called the White House’s explanation for firing FBI Director James Comey amid the bureau’s open investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia “laughable.”

On CNN’s “New Day,” Blumenthal blasted the administration for suggesting Friday that reporters could be targeted amid the White House’s crackdown on leaks. He argued that while government officials who disclose classified information should be prosecuted, journalists who do so should be protected.

“I’m very concerned the Justice Department is weaponizing these laws for its personal and political ends,” Blumenthal said. “And, specifically, for the White House’s purposes.”

At a press conference on Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions condemned the “staggering number of leaks undermining the ability of our government to protect this country.”

“No one is entitled to surreptitiously fight their battles in the media by revealing sensitive government information,” Sessions said.

Trump had been publicly pressuring Sessions to pursue the leakers of classified information following a series of disclosures about the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia.

Sessions also said that the Justice Department is reviewing its power to subpoena reporters who obtain and publish sensitive information.

“That’s a chilling effect on the press,” Blumenthal said, arguing that the White House isn’t just targeting the leaks of classified intelligence but also of “embarrassing” information about the administration.

“What would we know, for example, about Michael Flynn? What would we know about the president’s financial dealings without the press doing its work?” Blumenthal said.

“What we know so far about the Trump administration has been the result of very good reporting,” he added. “I believe that when the history of this era is written, the heroes will be the free press and the independent judiciary.”

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