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Trump excoriates Sasse over leaked audio

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: 'I would transition from the oil industry' MORE berated Sen. Ben SasseBenjamin (Ben) Eric SasseSweden bans use of Huawei, ZTE equipment in new 5G networks McConnell aims for unity amid growing divisions with Trump Cornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' MORE (R) after audio leaked this week of the Nebraska lawmaker leveling harsh criticism against the president in a town hall with constituents.

“The least effective of our 53 Republican Senators, and a person who truly doesn’t have what it takes to be great, is Little Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a State which I have gladly done so much to help,” Trump tweeted. “@SenSasse was as nice as a RINO [Republican in name only] can be until he recently won the Republican Nomination to run for a second term. Then he went back to his rather stupid and obnoxious ways.”

“Little Ben is a liability to the Republican Party, and an embarrassment to the Great State of Nebraska. Other than that, he’s just a wonderful guy!” Trump added.

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The president followed up two hours later, suggesting Sasse's stances would make him unelectable and comparing him to Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeOne of life's great mysteries: Why would any conservative vote for Biden? Trump excoriates Sasse over leaked audio Biden holds 8-point lead over Trump in Arizona: poll MORE (R-Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCornyn: Relationships with Trump like 'women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse' Trump excoriates Sasse over leaked audio Has Congress captured Russia policy? MORE (R-Tenn.), two Trump critics who retired in 2018 instead of facing primary challenges.

"Senator Little Ben Sasse of the Great State of Nebraska seems to be heading down the same inglorious path as former Senators Liddle' Bob Corker, whose approval rating in Tennessee went from 55% to 4%, & Jeff 'the Flake' Flake, whose approval rating in Arizona went from 56% to practically nothing. Both Senators became totally unelectable, couldn’t come even close to winning their primaries, and decided to drop out of politics and gracefully 'RETIRE,'" Trump tweeted.

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The harsh rebuke comes after remarks of Sasse hitting Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, his relations abroad and more surfaced this week.

“The reality is that he careened from curb to curb. First, he ignored COVID. And then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this,” Sasse said in an event with constituents, according to audio obtained by The Washington Examiner. “And that was always wrong. I mean, and so I don't think the way he's lead through COVID has been reasonable or responsible or right.”

“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 President Obama for that kind of spending, I've criticized President Trump for as well,” Sasse added. “He mocks evangelicals behind closed doors. His family has treated the presidency like a business opportunity. He's flirted with white supremacists.”

In additional audio obtained by The New York Times, Sasse warned that Trump is set to lose his reelection campaign and possibly trigger a “Republican bloodbath.” 

“I’m now looking at the possibility of a Republican bloodbath in the Senate, and that’s why I’ve never been on the Trump train,” he said. “It’s why I didn’t agree to be on his reelection committee, and it’s why I’m not campaigning for him.”

Sasse, a first-term lawmaker, is running for reelection this year. He won the GOP Senate primary earlier this year against Matt Innis, a Marine Corps veteran and business owner who had looked to cast the incumbent as insufficiently loyal to the president. Sasse won easily with the help of Trump's endorsement.

A senator who prides himself on his libertarian streak, the Nebraska Republican has at times publicly criticized the president, including in August when he hit Trump over what he said were inappropriate executive orders.

“RINO Ben Sasse, who needed my support and endorsement in order to get the Republican nomination for Senate from the GREAT State of Nebraska, has, now that he’s got it (Thank you President T), gone rogue, again. This foolishness plays right into the hands of the Radical Left Dems!” Trump shot back.

Given Nebraska’s solid red tint, Sasse is not expected to be punished at the ballot box this year over his criticism. The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates his race as “solid Republican."