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Trump and Harry Reid’s latest attacks on each other, briefly explained

Trump and Reid are really not fans of each other.

Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sits next to his successor, Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid sits next to his successor, Sen. Chuck Schumer, at an event in Washington, DC, in December 2016.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

There is no love lost between former Sen. Harry Reid and President Donald Trump.

The retired Nevada Democrat said in a new interview that he doesn’t think the president is doing anything right because he has “trouble accepting him as a person.” Trump hit back, accusing Reid of leading “through lies and deception” and falsely claiming he was “thrown out” of the Senate.

Reid, the 79-year-old former Senate Democratic leader who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, sat down for a wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Dana Bash released on Monday. In it, Reid — a harsh critic of former President George W. Bush — said Trump made Bush look like “Babe Ruth.” He said impeachment efforts would be a “waste of time” because of Republicans in the Senate but suggested Democrats don’t need to worry about potential backlash because “the vast majority of people know something’s wrong with Trump.”

In Reid’s eyes, Trump is so bad that 2020 Democrats don’t really need to mention it.

“The candidates running need not talk about how bad President Trump is, they just need to talk about what’s good for the country,” Reid said. “Everyone knows, even those people supporting knows what problems he has.”

Trump hit back on Twitter on Monday, saying that Reid “is working hard to put a good spin on his failed career” and also taking a swipe at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Reid’s successor. Trump claimed that Reid was “thrown out” of the Senate, but Reid retired just weeks before Trump was inaugurated.

Trump’s retaliation raised eyebrows, given the state of Reid’s health. New York Times writer Mark Leibovich in a January profile of Reid wrote that Reid “does not have long to live” and said that the former senator initially put off the interview because he was too weak. Reid told Bash that his cancer is in remission, but he is unable to walk without assistance.

That doesn’t mean Reid would necessarily be particularly bothered by the jab. The former boxer told Bash he misses the battle of being in the Senate, though he knows it’s not for him anymore.

Harry Reid is really not a fan of Donald Trump

Reid was a fierce Bush critic when the 43rd president was in the White House. Reid derided Bush as a “loser” and a “liar” and reportedly even insulted Bush’s dog on a visit with him in the Oval Office, telling him his dog was fat. In 2007, the New York Times described Reid’s and Bush’s relationship as a “deep freeze.”

But in comparison to Trump, Bush appears to have improved his standing in Reid’s eyes. Reid told Bash that he wishes for Bush again “every day” and that while they had their differences, “no one ever questioned his patriotism.”

”There’s no question in my mind that George Bush would be Babe Ruth in this league that he’s in with Donald Trump in the league. Donald Trump wouldn’t make the team,” Reid said.

Reid showed Bash a letter he has framed in his office from Trump in 2010, congratulating him on winning reelection with the words, “you are amazing!” Reid joked that it was “in the days when [Trump] didn’t know if he was a Democrat or a Republican.”

This is hardly the first time Reid has criticized Trump. He has called him a “spoiled brat,” “con artist,” and “human leech.” In 2016, he said Trump’s campaign was “kind of fat, ugly, and dirty.” In the recent Times profile, Reid declared that Trump is the “worst president” the US has ever had. “He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him,” he said.

To be sure, Reid has never had a reputation for holding back when it comes to his political opponents. In 2012, he claimed, without evidence, that then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hadn’t paid taxes over the course of a decade. Romney’s tax returns showed that he did. Reid appears not to regret it. When asked about the matter in 2015, he replied, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

It’s not the first time Trump has gone after Reid, either — or in a distasteful manner. Trump joked about injuries Reid suffered while exercising with armbands that left him blind in one eye. “I think he should go back and start working out again with his rubber workout pieces,” Trump said in a 2016 interview with the Washington Post.

Trump last year also tried to use a 1993 speech Reid gave in his efforts to get rid of birthright citizenship in which Reid said “no sane country” would give that as a “reward for being an illegal immigrant.” The president went as far as to tweet out Reid’s remarks.

Reid hit back, saying that Trump is “profoundly wrong” about revoking birthright citizenship, and he’s called his own position at the time one of the biggest mistakes of his career.

Bash asked Reid about it in the interview released on Monday. “I guess everything’s fair, he found it, let him use it,” Reid said. But he reiterated that he believes he was in the wrong with his remarks more than 25 years ago. “They were a mistake,” he said.

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