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Analysis

As Blumenthal criticizes Kavanaugh, Trump takes aim at senator's Vietnam claims

In April 1970, Richard Blumenthal secured a spot in the Marine Corps Reserve.

U.S. MARINE CORPS

By CHRISTOPHER KEATING | The Hartford Courant | Published: October 6, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — Escalating their personal battle, President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal clashed sharply this week with Blumenthal continuing criticisms of a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and Trump counterattacking by blasting Blumenthal's false statements about serving in Vietnam.

On Monday, Blumenthal and seven other Democratic senators called for 23 witnesses to be interviewed over the sexual misconduct allegations against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

They were seeking a wider inquiry regarding the case, including testimony from Kavanaugh himself, three female accusers, and Mark Judge, a close friend of Kavanaugh in high school.

With numerous recent appearances on national television, Blumenthal's profile has been raised lately as a member of the judiciary committee in the highly contentious Kavanaugh hearings. Over the weekend, Trump tweeted against Blumenthal and his previous statements about service during the Vietnam War.

"Senator Richard Blumenthal must talk about his fraudulent service in Vietnam, where for 12 years he told the people of Connecticut, as their Attorney General, that he was a great Marine War Hero," Trump tweeted, adding that Blumenthal is a "total phony."

But Blumenthal said Monday that he would not back down from the inquiry into Kavanaugh.

"I won't be distracted or silenced," he said at the state Capitol complex in Hartford.

Besides the Kavanaugh nomination, Blumenthal is also clashing with Trump in a civil lawsuit regarding Trump's business interests.

During an outdoor news conference at the White House on Monday on an unrelated trade deal, Trump raised the stakes by blasting Blumenthal and other Democratic senators for criticizing Kavanaugh.

"For 15 years, he said he was a war hero," Trump said in a nationally televised news conference. "He never went to Vietnam. This guy lied when he was attorney general of Connecticut."

"This guy lied. I don't mean a little bit," Trump said. "This guy lied, and now he's up there talking like he's holier than thou."

Trump then gave a nickname to Blumenthal of "Da Nang Richard," referring to a battle in Vietnam.

Blumenthal's supporters say Trump has mischaracterized the Connecticut senator's statements about Vietnam. Blumenthal apologized during his 2010 Senate campaign, saying that he never served in Vietnam and instead served in the U.S. Marine Reserves.

When asked earlier Monday if he believes that Trump is trying to undermine his credibility, Blumenthal said, "I have no idea whether it will continue, and I really have no idea what his motive is."

Blumenthal is also a major figure in an ongoing lawsuit against Trump regarding the emoluments clause, which prevents a president from receiving money from foreign governments. The question revolves around Trump's ownership of a hotel in Washington, D.C., where top officials from foreign governments have stayed.

That lawsuit, Blumenthal said Monday, could lead to the possible release of Trump's tax returns, which he refused to release during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Multiple Democratic members of Congress are paying for the lawyers individually from either campaign or their own funds.

"I'm paying out of personal funds," Blumenthal said.

The case, known as Blumenthal v. Trump, seeks to gain information about Trump's business dealings, which are not held in a blind trust.

After his news conference, Blumenthal told The Hartford Courant that a motion on "standing" in the emoluments lawsuit had allowed the case to move forward.

"Overcoming this hurdle was a major breakthrough for us – probably the most difficult legal issue in the case," Blumenthal said. "Our argument was basically that the president was preventing us from doing our job, which gives us standing. We're elected to hold him accountable. He has to come for us for consent if he accepts trademarks from China or a loan from Indonesia that benefits his resort there or rental payments from the Chinese for Trump Tower. He continues to own the Trump organization. He has never divested."

As the Trump-Blumenthal battle has escalated, Trump has mentioned at least four times Blumenthal's statement about his service in Vietnam.

"This is a pattern," Blumenthal said of Trump. "Our focus should be on the really important job we have to do in approving the next justice to the nation's highest court."

One of the latest developments in the Kavanaugh case came from a former Yale classmate who told CNN that Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker in college.

"Judge Kavanaugh's veracity about his drinking is in serious question," Blumenthal said. "The latest statement is one more piece of evidence about his excessive drinking."

Concerning Kavanaugh, Trump finished his news conference by saying, "I just think he's an outstanding person. I think he's been treated horribly. Even if you were going to bring up some of the subjects that were brought up, they didn't have to treat him so viciously and so violently as they've treated him."

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(c)2018 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
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