A twitter war has broken out between Connecticut Democrat U.S. Senator Dick Blumenthal and President Donald Trump. Following Blumenthal’s early denigration of Secretary of State Jeff Sessions – prior to his interrogation of former Senator Sessions, Blumenthal broadly hinted that Sessions and the KKK were on friendly terms – and following Blumenthal’s not so subtle hints that Trump may have collaborated with the Ruskies to damage the presidential prospects of Democrat presidential contender Hillary Clinton. Trump, never one to suffer fools gladly, struck back, using twitter as a rhetorical cattle prod.
"Interesting to watch Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut talking about hoax Russian collusion when he was a phony Vietnam con artist!" Trump twittered “minutes after Blumenthal had appeared on CNN,” according to a story in the Hartford Courant. Hyperbole pumping through his veins, Trump added, “Never in U.S. history has anyone lied or defrauded voters like Senator Richard Blumenthal. He told stories about his Vietnam battles and conquests, how brave he was, and it was all a lie. He cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness like a child. Now he judges collusion?"
It was definitely a rap on the knuckles. Smarting from the blow, Blumenthal responded, “Mr. President: Your bullying hasn't worked before and it won't work now. No one is above the law. This issue isn't about me - it's about the Special Counsel's independence and integrity.”
The Blumenthal-Trump frisson goes back many years to 1990. It began with tousle over the control of leases for the iconic Empire State Building.
According to Bloomberg News, Trump and the daughter of Hideki Yokoi, one of Japan’s wealthiest men who held title to the building, “created a business partnership that sought to gain control of the lucrative long-term lease on the 102-story property, held by a partnership managed by [Peter] Malkin. Trump argued that Malkin and the building manager let it fall into disrepair, violating the leases.” Years of litigation followed. Malkin, Blumenthal’s father-in-law, prevailed in court and, according to Bloomberg, Trump “wound up selling his stake in the building to Malkin’s partnership with a profit of several million dollars -- far less than the more than $100 million a year he and his partners might have collected from rent if he had prevailed.”
In 2010, Blumenthal’s decidedly false claims, made in several different venues, that he has served with Marines in Vietnam were exploded by the New York Times. Having exhausted his service deferments that allowed him “to complete his studies at Harvard; pursue a graduate fellowship in England; serve as a special assistant to The Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham; and ultimately take a job in the Nixon White House,” Blumenthal joined a Marine unit in Washington, D.C. “that conducted drills and other exercises and focused on local projects, like fixing a campground and organizing a Toys for Tots drive.”
These disclosures bounced harmlessly off Blumenthal during his senatorial run, leaving him unscathed. In a documentary on stolen valor by the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), “Heroes, Frauds and Imposters,” Blumenthal plays a prominent role. ABC interviewed Assistant Attorney General Richard Hine, a Judge Adjutant during the Vietnam War, who recalled Blumenthal misrepresenting his service record to him. The documentary was not widely distributed in Connecticut during Blumenthal’s run for the Senate.
Blumenthal is best known in Connecticut as a white-hatted prosecutor who had, during his two decades as Attorney General, managed to keep up media appearances; so much so that it was said of him -- the most dangerous place in Connecticut was the space between Blumenthal and a TV camera. When Blumenthal left his stint as Connecticut’s crusading Attorney General for the U.S. Senate, he had left on his plate more than 200 cases that quickly were dismissed by incoming Attorney General George Jepsen. No one has yet tallied the number of plea bargains forced on companies by Blumenthal because his many targets were unable, after their assets had been encumbered, to afford seemingly endless litigation.
So effective were Blumenthal’s false Vietnam claims, the Times reported, “In at least eight newspaper articles published in Connecticut from 2003 to 2009, he is described as having served in Vietnam. The New Haven Register on July 20, 2006, described him as ‘a veteran of the Vietnam War,’ and on April 6, 2007, said that the attorney general had ‘served in the Marines in Vietnam.’ On May 26, 2009, The Connecticut Post, a Bridgeport newspaper that is the state’s third-largest daily, described Mr. Blumenthal as ‘a Vietnam veteran.’ The Shelton Weekly reported on May 23, 2008, that Mr. Blumenthal ‘was met with applause when he spoke about his experience as a Marine sergeant in Vietnam.’”
By the year 2000, the Times reported, “the idea that he served in Vietnam has become such an accepted part of his public biography that when a national outlet, Slate magazine, produced a profile of Mr. Blumenthal in 2000, it said he had ‘enlisted in the Marines rather than duck the Vietnam draft.’”
The Times reported in 2010, “It does not appear that Mr. Blumenthal ever sought to correct those mistakes,” proving beyond the shadow of a doubt, as the lawyers sometime say, that clever politicians need not always reap what they sow.