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Trump cites 'Obamagate' in urging GOP to get 'tough' on Democrats

President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE on Tuesday urged Senate Republicans to get “tough” with Democrats heading into election season and referenced what he alleges was an effort by Democrats to sabotage his 2016 campaign and presidency. 

Trump, speaking during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, touted his poll numbers and the outlook for Senate GOP candidates in battleground states. He also called on Republican lawmakers to stay unified in the weeks and months ahead.

“He pretty regularly reminds us that we’re not as tough as [Democrats] are. That they play more for keeps, that they stick together better,” said Sen. Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE (R-N.D.), who attended the meeting.

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“He just said, ‘Be tough. Be tough,’” Cramer said. “I take it that he’s referring, politically speaking, as we go down the stretch, don’t expect them to do you any favors.”

“He’s ready to hit the trail, that’s obvious. You can tell he’d like to get out there to start helping,” Cramer added.

Other Republicans at the meeting said Trump reminded senators of what he has started to refer to as “Obamagate.”

“He talked about the investigations into Russian involvement in the 2016 election and his concerns that you have heard before, which many of us share, about using the institutions like the FBI and the DOJ and others to undermine an incoming president,” said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynBiden's oil stance jars Democrats in tough races The Hill's Campaign Report: 2020 spending wars | Biden looks to clean up oil comments | Debate ratings are in The Hill's Campaign Report: Obama to hit the campaign trail l Biden's eye-popping cash advantage l New battleground polls favor Biden MORE (R-Texas), referring to the Department of Justice.

“He expressed his belief that there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of bipartisan cooperation. It was going to be a pitched battle leading up to the November election and he was encouraging all of us to get in the fight and not get pushed around,” he added.

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Cornyn noted that Trump didn’t need to urge Senate Republicans to investigate alleged efforts by former Obama administration officials to scrutinize possible collusion with Russia because Senate Judiciary Committee Graham (R-S.C.) already plans to do so.

Graham on Monday announced the Senate Judiciary Committee will vote June 4 on subpoena authority covering conversations, documents and witness testimony pertaining to Obama-era officials such as former FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Trump remarks put pressure on Barr Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals MORE, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeHillicon Valley: CEOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter to testify before Senate | European Union police agency warns of increase in cybercrime | Twitter to remove posts hoping for Trump's death Graham officially schedules hearing on Trump's Supreme Court pick to start Oct. 12 The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump eager to leave the hospital MORE, former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperIs America ready to return to the Obama-Biden foreign policy? Why the Nobel Prize shows the US and China need to work together on gene editing Trump suggests Gold Star families could have infected him MORE and former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen Brennan50 former intelligence officials warn NY Post story sounds like Russian disinformation Not treason, not a crime — but definitely a gross abuse of power Trump fires off dozens of tweets while recuperating at White House MORE.

“Sen. Hawley and I and the rest of the Judiciary Committee are going to be doing that. We have a lot of questions and they need to come up with some better answers,” Cornyn said of the former Obama officials.

Trump did not give Republican senators a timeline for when he wants the investigations of the Obama administration completed, though Graham says he is aiming to wrap it up before the Nov. 3 election.

Senate Republicans have grown increasingly nervous about holding onto their majority on Election Day as the coronavirus pandemic has rocked the U.S. economy, sending the national unemployment rate soaring to 14.7 percent last month. 

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Trump’s handling of the crisis has come under sharp attack from Democrats, who argue he lacks a national plan and is well behind where he should be in making sure there are enough tests available to safely reopen state and local economies.

The president spent much of Tuesday’s meeting characterizing his administration’s handling of the pandemic as a success, pointing to positive signs on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine and a ramp-up in availability of testing kits. 

But the polls tell a different story, with some flashing warning signs for Trump. 

A Washington Post-Ipsos poll published last week showed that only 43 percent of respondents approve of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, while a survey of 22,000 voters across the country by Harvard, Northeastern and Rutgers universities last month found that the governors of all 50 states have higher approval ratings than Trump when it comes to responding to the coronavirus crisis.

Trump, however, shared polling with Republicans that painted a rosier picture.

“The numbers he shared were certainly good. I don’t know if they were an internal poll or some public poll, he didn’t cite the source. He was mainly talking about the enthusiasm numbers, which not surprisingly are very high for him and very low for Joe BidenJoe BidenObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Brad Pitt narrates Biden ad airing during World Series MORE. That’s not irrelevant,” said Cramer.

Trump also pointed to positive polling for Republicans in Senate battlegrounds and singled out Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesDemocrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid MORE (R-Mont.), who faces a tough challenge from Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockInterior says Pendley to remain at BLM despite 'dramatic tweets' from Democrats Democrat trails by 3 points in Montana Senate race: poll Poll shows statistical tie in Montana Senate race MORE (D).

“He made a general reference to swing states and battleground states that were also very good,” Cramer added. 

Cornyn confirmed that Trump highlighted the enthusiasm edge he enjoys over Biden among core supporters. 

“Big enthusiasm gap,” he said, summarizing Trump’s pep talk. “He is actually pretty proud of where his numbers were.”