HARTFORD — Only one hour after news broke that FBI agents had searched his Florida home for documents, former President Donald Trump hailed Greenwich Republican Leora Levy on Monday night in a tele-rally.
Trump was trying to generate momentum for Levy heading into Tuesday’s U.S. Senate primary against the party’s convention-endorsed candidate, Themis Klarides of Madison, and conservative immigration attorney Peter Lumaj of Fairfield.
When Trump endorsed Levy last week on a telephone call to Republicans in Montville, he mentioned to the outdoor crowd that he wanted to travel to Connecticut for a rally. The rally instead was held by telephone as the Levy campaign distributed the number by Twitter and e-mail.
The Levy campaign said that 32,679 people listened to Trump’s call - a high number at a time when 450,000 Republicans are eligible to vote Tuesday. Trump arranged the call and promoted it to his supporters through social media, and the Levy campaign said that 98% of the callers were from Connecticut.
But Gary Rose, a longtime political science professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, questioned that more than 32,000 were on the call, saying that it sounded “really, really exaggerated.’'
The tele-rally lasted less than 12 minutes, and Trump spoke for five minutes. Besides praising Levy, Trump continued to blast U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a two-term Democrat who will face the winner of Tuesday’s primary.
“I think Leora’s going to win because [Blumenthal] is among the worst,’' Trump said on the call. “He’s just a terrible senator. ... I think this is going to be a tremendous race, but first we have to win a primary.’'
Trump added, “Leora Levy is a person I’ve known for a long while. She’s a great person, and she’ll be a phenomenal senator. ... Leora has been fighting for the Republican Party for 40 years, including as a national committeeman. She was one of the ones who said, ‘Let’s change that word to committeewoman,’ and she got it done.’’
Concerning Klarides, Trump said that Levy is battling “against a total RINO named Themis Klarides. I don’t know, that’s an interesting name, isn’t it?”
Trump once again repeated his statements about the long-running controversy surrounding Blumenthal and Vietnam that surfaced in May 2010 during the campaign against Republican candidate Linda McMahon. Blumenthal had previously said in 2008 that he “served in Vietnam,’' but he had served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and did not fight in the Vietnam War. Blumenthal apologized and has since won two elections to the U.S. Senate since the controversy began.
“I call him Da Nang Dick Blumenthal,’' Trump said.
After introducing Trump, Levy spoke again after Trump had finished.
“My entire life has been about fighting against the odds,’' Levy said on the call. “Babe Ruth said it best: it’s hard to beat somebody who won’t quit. And I promise you, I will never quit. I escaped communist Cuba as a young child. I grew up as a Jewish-Hispanic woman during the Jim Crow era in the South.’'
Before the rally, the search at Mar-a-Lago in Florida was related to boxes of classified documents that officials said Trump had shipped from the White House to his home, and should be sent to the National Archives, according to multiple news reports.
Trump revealed the FBI search through a public statement that said that his home was “raided and occupied” and was “currently under siege” Monday. He said agents had broken into a safe.
“Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before,” Trump wrote. “After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.”
The search came on the 48th anniversary of the date - August 8, 1974 - that Richard M. Nixon announced that he was resigning from the presidency during the Watergate scandal.
Christopher Keating can be reached at email@example.com