Painter: Raised 'Middle Fingers' Await Trump on Visit to Minnesota

Richard Painter / Painter for US Senate Facebook
June 19, 2018

Richard Painter, the former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer turned 2018 Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, claimed Tuesday that raised "middle fingers" are the only thing awaiting President Donald Trump on an upcoming visit to Minnesota.

Painter took to Twitter to rebuke Trump for journeying to Minnesota to "celebrate" legislation introduced by Sen. Tina Smith (D., Minn.), Painter's primary opponent for the Democratic nomination, to benefit Minnesota's sulfide mining industry.

"He is coming to celebrate the Senate’s passage of the Smith Amendment and sulfide mining," Painter wrote. "He is coming to celebrate Members of Congress who either support him or are afraid of him."

Painter asserted that the visit presented a perfect opportunity for Minnesotans to show Trump "exactly what we think of him."

The tweets come as Trump prepares to travel to Minnesota on Wednesday for a campaign event. Trump will also host an informational roundtable with local elected officials and business leaders representing the state's burgeoning mining industry.

Painter followed up his initial tweet by sharing an article quoting comments the president made during an appearance with "Fox & Friends" last week, in which Trump joked that he wanted his staff "sit up at attention" like the way North Koreans do for Kim Jong Un.

The joke stirred controversy as some inaccurately attempted to paint the comments as Trump expressing admiration for a dictatorial regime. The president dismissed the criticism, asserting his detractors "didn't understand sarcasm."

Trump's explanation didn't seem to sway Painter, who still seemed to be fuming over the remarks Tuesday. In his follow-up, Painter asserted Trump would not find an audience sitting "at attention" for his arrival, but rather he should expect to be greeted by raised "middle fingers."

"Tomorrow in Duluth, Minnesota he is coming to crow about legislative victories for sulfide mining. We will not 'sit at attention,'" Painter tweeted. "Middle fingers across our State await him."

Painter, who serves as vice-chairman of the left-wing advocacy group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), has long been a Trump antagonist. In January, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Painter was involved in a campaign to censure the president.

The tweets exhibit the strategy Painter is taking in seeking to upset Smith for the Democratic nomination. Smith, who was appointed to succeed Democratic Sen. Al Franken (Minn.) after he resigned following accusations of sexual harassment, is running with the support of Minnesota's Democratic establishment.

Painter has castigated Smith for not standing up to Trump.

This strategy was on display Monday when Painter's campaign released a television ad titled "Dumpster Fire," which not only attacks Trump but members of Congress—of both parties—for  not doing enough to put out the "inferno" in Washington.

The former Bush administration official has also attempted to outflank Smith on the left by lambasting the senator for not being sufficiently pro-environment. In recent weeks, Painter has attacked the senator for introducing legislation expediting the transfer of land in northern Minnesota between the federal government and PolyMet, a local mining company.

The Democratic primary will be held Aug. 14.