Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democrats brace for tough election year in Nevada The Memo: Biden's horizon is clouded by doubt MORE (D-Nev.) wants to make sure he doesn’t end his Senate career on a losing note.
Reid is doing everything he can to push Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe real reason Biden is going to the COP26 climate summit Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 MORE over the top in the presidential race, including in his state of Nevada, where she is in a tight contest with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Texans chairman apologizes for 'China virus' remark Biden invokes Trump in bid to boost McAuliffe ahead of Election Day MORE.
The Democratic Senate leader has been among the most aggressive in his party in criticizing FBI Director James Comey, who Reid says is sitting on information about Russian hackers that could embarrass Trump.
On Sunday, Reid said that Comey may have violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity by federal employees — a stunning salvo directed at the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.
Tough talk has become a hallmark of Reid’s political style over the years, and with only a week left before the final election of his career, he’s punching as hard as he ever has.
“Harry Reid of all people is going to go out with a bang and not a whimper,” said Jon Ralston, a veteran political commentator based in Nevada who has watched Reid closely for years.
“This is classic Harry Reid,” Ralston said of the jab at Comey. “It’s been presaged by everything else he’s done in his career: Mitt Romney’s taxes, calling George W. Bush a loser. He will say what he thinks will give him — or in this case his team — an advantage.”
Senior Democratic aides insisted that Reid’s shot at Comey had nothing to do with his other political efforts to win the Nevada Senate race for his party and recapture the chamber from GOP control.
But it follows a pattern of playing political hardball in an election year.
Reid targeted Charles and David Koch, two major GOP donors, in dozens of speeches on the Senate floor in 2014, accusing them of unlawful business practices such as violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It was unusual for such a barrage to be directed at private citizens from the then-Senate majority leader.
Reid announced in 2012 that Mitt Romney, then the GOP presidential nominee, hadn’t paid taxes in 10 years, citing an anonymous source connected to Romney’s company. He also made the allegation on the Senate floor, which raised eyebrows among colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
The claim later turned out to be untrue.
He called former President George W. Bush “a liar” and “a loser,” topping it off by mocking his dog as “fat.”
In 2008, when Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate confirms four Biden ambassadors after delay Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' Grant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 MORE (R-Ariz.) was the GOP standard-bearer, Reid declared he couldn’t stand McCain and called his campaign tactics “scummy,” despite having long served with him in both chambers.
McCain later confessed to The Hill in an interview that he was taken aback by Reid’s personally harsh attacks given their otherwise good relationship.
“It’s very confusing because he was very personal in his attacks on me during the [2008 presidential] campaign and then occasionally he’ll stand up on the floor of the Senate and say, ‘Oh, this good guy McCain.’ I don’t understand this. I don’t understand it.”
People who know Reid the best say he’s willing to do anything to help his team win when the stakes are high.
“I know for a fact that he’s taking this very personally,” said Jim Manley, a former senior aide to Reid who stays in contact with his old boss.
“He’s had it with what he sees of the outrageous actions of the Republican Party, and he’s determined to try to do what he can to put a stop to it. He’s just appalled by it.”
The stakes are also especially high in this cycle for Reid.
He’s keeping a close eye on the race for the Senate majority, which is up in the air with the FBI’s new scrutiny of Clinton. He has helped raise millions of dollars for Senate Majority PAC, a Democratic group that announced a record fundraising haul of $19.3 million over the first 20 days of October.
He has made sure that Catherine Cortez Masto, the Democrat who is running for his seat, is getting the resources and surrogate speakers she needs to beat Nevada Rep. Joe Heck (R).
Reid doesn’t want to see Clinton or Cortez Masto lose Nevada on his watch.
Zach Zaragoza, the executive director of the Nevada Democratic Party, said Reid was “instrumental” in getting President Obama and popular liberal Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSenate Democrats propose corporate minimum tax for spending package The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Budget negotiators: 72 hours and counting Democrats face critical 72 hours MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight On The Money — Senate Democrats lay out their tax plans Overnight Health Care — Presented by Altria — FDA advisers endorse Pfizer vaccine for kids Manchin: 'I think we'll get a framework' deal MORE (I-Vt.) to stump for Cortez Masto.
“He’s really been making sure that we have great surrogates with star power to mobilize the early vote,” he said, adding Reid made sure those superstars talked about Cortez Masto and down-ballot races, not just the presidential contest.
Reid would also love to pass a Senate controlled by Democrats to his successor.
He has spearheaded the effort to tie Trump to vulnerable Senate Republican candidates, something Clinton hesitated to do initially because her campaign feared that doing so might make Trump seem more mainstream.
For months, Reid has attacked Trump on the Senate floor and lumped him in with Republican leaders, bashing them as the stewards of the “party of Trump.”
In June he said on the floor that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellManchin backs raising debt ceiling with reconciliation if GOP balks Biden needs to be both Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside Billionaire tax gains momentum MORE (R-Ky.) by supporting Trump was “giving credence” to the nominee’s “anti-American stances against women, Latinos, blacks, people with disabilities and immigrants.”
He stepped up his offensive Sunday, sending a letter to Comey accusing him of a double standard by informing Republicans on Capitol Hill that the agency was reviewing new information related to Clinton’s private email server at the State Department while sitting on “explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors and the Russian government.”
The blunt missive would have been shocking from any congressional leader other than Reid.
But the gamble appeared to pay off Monday when CNBC reported that Comey argued privately with colleagues that it was too close to Election Day to publicly accuse Russia of meddling in the election and made sure the FBI was not linked to a document issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence asserting Russian involvement in several high-profile computer hacks.
Reid hasn’t hesitated to call out ostensibly neutral arbiters he’s felt have erred in their judgment of balls and strikes.
In September, Reid chastised reporters for magnifying Clinton’s health problems while giving Trump soft treatment.
“You folks have magnified the problems she has. Take a look at this character who is running for president,” he said, referring to Trump.
He has directed his sharpest invective toward his fellow Republican leaders, repeatedly calling them out for moral cowardice in not standing up to Trump.
Reid delivered a landmark speech to the Center for American Progress Action Fund in March blaming the rise of Trump’s extreme form of politics on what he labeled as the obstructionist and anti-immigrant stances of the Republican Party during Obama’s administration.
He has continued to hammer that theme for a year and a half.
Joe DiSipio contributed.