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

President TrumpDonald TrumpWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Poll: 30 percent of GOP voters believe Trump will 'likely' be reinstated this year Black Secret Service agent told Trump it was offensive to hold rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth: report 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 CramerSenate confirms Radhika Fox to lead EPA's water office GOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Trump dismisses climate change, calls on Biden to fire joint chiefs 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 CornynThe Senate is where dreams go to die Federal government to observe Juneteenth holiday on Friday Joe Manchin keeps Democrats guessing on sweeping election bill 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 ComeyMystery surrounds Justice's pledge on journalist records NYT publisher: DOJ phone records seizure a 'dangerous incursion' on press freedom Trump DOJ seized phone records of New York Times reporters MORE, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabeAndrew George McCabeThe FBI should turn off the FARA faucet John Durham's endgame: Don't expect criminal charges Carter Page sues over surveillance related to Russia probe MORE, former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperDomestic security is in disarray: We need a manager, now more than ever Will Biden provide strategic clarity or further ambiguity on Taiwan? 140 national security leaders call for 9/11-style panel to review Jan. 6 attack MORE and former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanFive things to know about the new spotlight on UFOs Extraordinary explanations for UFOs look increasingly plausible Why does the hard left glorify the Palestinians? 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: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine 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 DainesGOP senator introduces constitutional amendment to ban flag burning Company officially nixes Keystone XL pipeline OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE (R-Mont.), who faces a tough challenge from Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockBiden 'allies' painting him into a corner Democratic Kansas City, Mo., mayor eyes Senate run Overnight Energy: Climate Summit Day 2 — Biden says US will work with other countries on climate innovation 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.”