(AP/Andrew Harnik)

Trump lashes out at Blumenthal after lawmaker questions "truthfulness" of Don Jr.'s Senate testimony

Blumenthal, a former prosecutor, says he found "serious issues" with Don Jr.'s testimony to the Judiciary Committee


Shira Tarlo
January 29, 2019 3:55PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump questioned Monday night why Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was allowed to serve on the chamber's Judiciary Committee after the Connecticut Democrat called into question  on live television whether Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, had been truthful in his testimony to Congress about his family's business dealings with Russia.

"How does Da Nang Dick (Blumenthal) serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee when he defrauded the American people about his so called War Hero status in Vietnam, only to later admit, with tears pouring down his face, that he was never in Vietnam," Trump asked in a tweet.

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"An embarrassment to our Country!" he added.

The president's tweet came minutes after Blumenthal told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that he and other Democratic lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee had found "serious issues" with the "truthfulness" of the closed-door testimony testimony of Don Jr. and other witnesses before the panel. Blumenthal, like many of his panel members, is a former prosecutor; he served as the attorney general of Connecticut for 20 years.

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"I think many of them should be called back to testify in public. And I hope that will be true of other congressional committees, as well, because behind closed doors, there arose in my mind very clearly questions – serious issues – about their truthfulness," Blumenthal said. "And that issue pertained particularly to Donald Trump Jr. in a number of contentions before our committee."

"So I think this common thread of lying to Congress, and particularly to congressional committees, may ensnare a number of other potential targets in the special counsel's investigation and become a matter of criminal action," he added.

The president appeared to be tuning into MSNBC, as he then revived his frequently used "Da Nang Dick" nickname for the Democratic senator, who has come under scrutiny in the past about his record of military service during the Vietnam War. Trump, for his part, has been accused of dodging military service in the same war by falsely obtaining a medical exemption; a bone spur diagnosis was issued by a podiatrist who was renting office space from his father.

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During the 2016 campaign, the president repeatedly and vehemently denied he had any business interests in Russia. However, even as he told the American public that he had no business deals in Russia, Trump and his children Ivanka, the president's eldest daughter and a senior White House adviser, and Don Jr. received "regular, detailed updates" about efforts to build a Trump-branded skyscraper in Russia before their father pursued a White House bid. The Trump Tower Moscow project was reportedly led by Michael Cohen, the president's former longtime attorney and personal "fixer."

Don Jr. testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 7, 2017 that he was only "peripherally aware" of the plan to build a Trump tower in Moscow. "Most of my knowledge has been gained since, as it relates to hearing about it over the last few weeks," he said. But, according to a report published earlier this month by BuzzFeed News, Don Jr. and Cohen had "multiple, detailed conversations on this subject during the campaign."

The luxury real estate development, which never materialized, is at the center of a plea deal Cohen reached with Robert Mueller, the special counsel who is investigating allegations of collusion between Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. Cohen pled guilty to lying to Congress about his contacts with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, specifically his efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, late last year. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison in December.

In another possible source of contention between the president and the Connecticut senator, Blumenthal introduced a new bi-partisan bill with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that would require Mueller to submit a report directly to Congress at the conclusion of an investigation that includes "the factual findings of the investigation, including any underlying evidence."

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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