Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska, berated President Trump in a telephone town hall with constituents on Wednesday, accusing the president of cozying up to dictators and white supremacists, mistreating women and United States allies, and failing to adequately confront the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think the way he’s led through Covid has been reasonable or responsible, or right,” Mr. Sasse said, according to audio obtained by the Washington Examiner.
He added that Mr. Trump had “careened from curb to curb” as he sought to respond to a pandemic that has claimed more than 210,000 American lives this year. The comments were confirmed by Mr. Sasse’s spokesman, James Wegmann, who did not respond to questions about when the call took place.
Mr. Sasse’s critique played out over just a few short minutes after someone on the call asked the senator about his previous criticisms of Mr. Trump. The senator, who styles himself as a principled conservative, has never pretended to be a fan of the president. But even compared to his earlier remarks, his comments during the call were remarkably scathing.
“The way he kisses dictators’ butts,” Mr. Sasse said, listing his reservations about Mr. Trump. “I mean, the way he ignores that the Uighurs are in literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now. He hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong-Kongers.”
He continued: “The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor.”
Mr. Trump, he added, “mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”
Mr. Sasse, who is up for re-election on Nov. 3, has never made a secret of his distaste for Mr. Trump. During the 2016 campaign, he compared Mr. Trump to David Duke and said he was not voting for him. In office, he called Mr. Trump’s signature trade war with China “nuts.”
But he had toned down his criticism in recent years, earning a crucial endorsement from the president he once savaged.
Mr. Sasse told constituents during the call that he was concerned the president’s failures and “stupid political obsessions” would empower Democrats.
“If young people become permanent Democrats because they’ve just been repulsed by the obsessive nature of our politics, or if women who were willing to still vote with the Republican Party in 2016 decide that they need to turn away from this party permanently in the future,” Mr. Sasse.
In a statement, Mr. Wegmann said that Mr. Sasse would only be talking about Senate races, which he argued were far more important with a Republican majority under threat.
“I don’t know how many more times we can shout this,” Mr. Wegmann said. “Even though the Beltway is obsessing exclusively about the presidential race, control of the Senate is ten times more important.”