BILLINGS – President Donald Trump attacked a vulnerable Democrat as well as those in his own administration who seek to undermine his agenda, saying at a rally Thursday night in Montana that a senior administration official’s anonymous, critical op-ed in The New York Times “backfired.”
“Unelected, deep state operatives who defy the voters to push their own secret agendas are truly a threat to democracy itself,” Trump said.
He called on the newspaper to reveal the author’s name.
“For the sake of our national security, The New York Times should publish his name at once,” Trump said. “I think their reporters should go and investigate who he is. That would actually be a good story.”
Trump said also Democrats are the party of “anger and hate,” attacking Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who is up for re-election this year, for releasing allegations that derailed the nomination of Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, Trump’s onetime personal White House physician, who was considered for veterans affairs secretary.
Trump also lambasted Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for their aggressive questioning this week of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump said committee members were “attacking Judge Kavanaugh and looking like fools.”
“And one of them will most likely be a candidate to run against your favorite-of-all-time president — me,” he said. It was not clear whether Trump was referring to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker or California Sen. Kamala Harris, both possible presidential candidates.
In his second visit to Montana to campaign for state auditor Matt Rosendale, who is running against Tester in November’s midterm elections, Trump attacked Tester for making public the allegations against Jackson, who withdrew his nomination.
“What Tester did to Adm. Jackson should never, ever be allowed. Ronny Jackson is a great man. Ronny Jackson has led a great and beautiful life” and had “lies told about him,” Trump said.
Montana is one of five states that Trump won by double digits in 2016 where a Democratic senator is up for re-election this fall — which the White House and Republican strategists hope will give the President outsized influence on their Senate races.
Trump’s rallies often veer far from the topic of the Senate race he’s there to weigh in on. In his July visit, Trump mocked the #MeToo movement, called Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” claimed California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters’ I.Q. is in the “mid-60s” and ridiculed Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who died nearly two weeks ago, for opposing his Obamacare repeal effort.
On Thursday, the swirl of news included the confirmation hearing of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and an anonymous New York Times op-ed in which a senior administration official strongly criticized Trump.
Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s Cabinet members spent the day issuing statements saying they weren’t the authors of the op-ed.
Trump ignored reporters’ questions about who was behind the op-ed as he left the White House to travel to Montana.
Legendary journalist Bob Woodward has also published a book that offers a damaging window into Trump’s presidency to date.
And the NFL regular season is set to begin this weekend, with players’ protests during the National Anthem expected to continue and Nike launching an advertising campaign featuring a favorite Trump target, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Montana has long voted Republican in presidential elections, but Trump proved even more popular than other recent Republican presidential nominees. He won the state in 2016 by 21 percentage points — a larger margin than Mitt Romney’s 14 points in 2012 and McCain’s 2 points in 2008.
Tester has largely opposed Trump’s agenda. Of the five Democrats up for re-election in deep-red states, Tester and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill voted against Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court confirmation in 2017, while the others — Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — backed Gorsuch.
In a fundraising email to supporters Thursday morning, Tester highlighted Trump’s visit to the state.
“Earlier this year, Trump said I’d ‘have a big price to pay’ this November — which means he’s ready to do whatever it takes to defeat me. It’s why he’s paying a second visit to my state,” he wrote.