Trump urges ouster of senator he blames for derailing VA nod


Associated Press

GREAT FALLS, Mont.

In a campaign stop that was both political and personal, President Donald Trump targeted Democrat Jon Tester on Thursday in a bid to get more Republicans elected to the Senate but also to punish the lawmaker he blames for derailing his nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Trump unleashed a vigorous campaign-season attack on some of his most strident Democratic critics and leaned heavily into the roiling immigration debate by claiming the opposition wants to abolish the federal agency that enforces immigration laws, though no top Democrats in the House or Senate have called for such a move.

Appearing in a state he dominated in 2016, Trump sought to cast Tester as a “liberal Democrat,” railing against his voting record on issues like abortion, immigration and taxes. While Tester opposed Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and the Republican tax bill, he has also taken flak from the left for a bill easing the rules on banks.

Tester took out full-page ads in more than a dozen newspapers across the state Thursday to thank Trump for signing 16 bills the Democrat sponsored or co-sponsored.

The president has made the Montana race a priority as he hopes to help Republicans tighten the party’s hold on the Senate. He welcomed Tester’s Republican opponent, state Auditor Matt Rosendale, to the stage Thursday, calling him a “very special person.”

“You deserve a senator who doesn’t just talk like he’s from Montana. You deserve a senator who actually votes like he’s from Montana,” Trump said.

In the crowded arena, Trump made clear the campaign stop was personal as he lamented the failed nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson to lead the VA. Trump blamed Tester for “shameful, dishonest attacks on a great man, a friend of mine.”

Trump singled out Tester in April, saying the farmer “will have a big price to pay” for releasing allegations against Jackson that included on-the-job drunkenness, overprescribing medication and fostering a hostile work environment.

Jackson, a Navy rear admiral, denied the claims but withdrew his nomination. The Pentagon is investigating.

“Tester said things about him that were horrible and they weren’t true,” Trump said. “And that’s probably why I’m here. Because I won Montana by so many points, I don’t have to come here.”

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