White House

Trump tweets dredge up Blumenthal's Vietnam controversy

John Roberts has the latest

 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal may have thought he put his “stolen valor” controversy to rest during an apologetic press conference in 2010.

Then President Trump picked up his cellphone.

Trump on Thursday morning hit Blumenthal for allegedly exaggerating details of a conversation with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch – while shining a light on the seven-year-old uproar over the Connecticut Democrat's apparent misrepresentation of his military service.

“Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” Trump tweeted. “Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave ‘service’ in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!”

Trump kept up the barrage Thursday afternoon, telling reporters Gorsuch's "comments were misrepresented, and what you should do is ask Sen. Blumenthal about his Vietnam record, that didn't exist after years of saying it did...he misrepresented that just like he misrepresented Judge Gorsuch."

Asked to comment Thursday about the tweets, Blumenthal told Fox News "this isn't about me" and denied embellishing or misrepresenting his meeting with Gorsuch.

Blumenthal received five deferments, from 1965-1970, before enlisting in the Marine Corps Reserve, though he was never sent out of the U.S. During his six years in the Reserve, Blumenthal was stationed in Washington, focusing on a slew of local projects, such as a Toys for Tots drive.

During his political career, however, Blumenthal frequently walked a precarious line, often framing his service just ambiguously enough to give the impression that he had spent time fighting in Vietnam.

“I served during the Vietnam era,” Blumenthal said in 2008. “I remember the taunts, the insults, sometimes even physical abuse.”

He told a gathering of families who were expressing support for returning American troops in 2003 that, “when we returned, we saw nothing like this.”

Blumenthal, however, crossed the line when speaking to a group of veterans in March 2008.

“We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam,” he said.

The New York Times published those quotes and others in a bombshell report during the 2010 campaign, noting that Blumenthal was described as having served in Vietnam in at least eight Connecticut newspaper articles published between 2003 and 2009.

Linda McMahon, the Republican who ultimately opposed Blumenthal in 2010, claimed her campaign had leaked the tip about Blumenthal to The Times. McMahon is currently Trump’s nominee to lead the Small Business Administration.

Speaking with The Times in 2010, Blumenthal said he couldn’t recall if he had seen the articles and wasn’t sure if any steps had been taken to correct the claims.

“I don’t know if we tried to do so or not,” he said.

During a 2010 press conference in which he was surrounded by veterans, Blumenthal claimed he had “misspoken.”

“On a few occasions, I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that and I take full responsibility,” said Blumenthal, who explained he meant to say he served “during” Vietnam, not “in” Vietnam. “But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country.”

Fox News' Peter Doocy contributed to this report.