Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) delivered a blistering critique of Donald Trump during a phone call with constituents, saying the president mishandled the coronavirus pandemic, curries favor with dictators, mistreats women, flirts with white supremacists and mocks evangelicals behind their backs.
Audio of the call was obtained by The Washington Examiner. A spokesperson for Sasse confirmed the call to the outlet and said it occurred earlier this week. Sasse’s wide-ranging comments were among the harshest attacks on Trump known to be expressed by a Republican lawmaker.
During the telephone town hall, one constituent asked Sasse about his relationship with Trump and why, compared with the vast majority of Republicans in Congress, he criticizes the president so much. Despite that, Sasse also has mostly supported Trump’s policies and voted to acquit him during his Senate impeachment trial early this year.
After noting his agreement with Trump on various policy matters, Sasse told the caller that he thinks Trump’s values are “deficient, not just for a Republican, but for an American.”
“The way he kisses dictators’ butts. I mean, the way he ignores the Uighurs,” the ethnic minority group in China who, Sasse said, “are (in) literal concentration camps in Xinjiang right now.” He also said Trump “hasn’t lifted a finger on behalf of the Hong-Kongers” who have been protesting Chinese government domestic policies.
Continuing, Sasse said, “The United States now regularly sells out our allies under his leadership, the way he treats women, spends like a drunken sailor. The ways I criticize (former) President (Barack) Obama for that kind of spending; I’ve criticized President Trump for as well. He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He’s flirted with white supremacists.”
He also slammed the president for refusing to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously for months, saying his leadership during the health crisis has not been “reasonable or responsible or right.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
James Wegmann, a spokesperson for Sasse, in comments to The Washington Post would not say if the senator will vote for Trump. Sasse, 38, is seeking a second term in November. Along with that race, Wegmann told the Post his boss is focusing on maintaining GOP control of the Senate.
Sasse was endorsed by Trump in September 2019 and easily defeated a challenger in Nebraska’s GOP primary in May. In a Twitter spat with Trump in August, he called four executive actions signed by the president “unconstitutional slop.” That prompted Trump to attack him as a “RINO” ― Republican In Name Only ― and claim Sasse had gone “rogue” after getting his support when he needed it. The senator responded that he never asked for the endorsement, “nor did I use it in the campaign.”
Sasse is heavily favored to win reelection. His Democratic challenger, Chris Janicek, has refused to drop out of the race despite revelations that he sent sexually explicit text messages about his campaign’s fundraising director. In response, Nebraska’s Democratic Party has endorsed another man as a write-in candidate.
Listen to the recording from the Washington Examiner below.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.