In North Dakota, Trump says Justice Kennedy’s retirement highlights need for more Republicans in Senate

Posted at 6:51 AM, Jun 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 08:51:47-04

President Trump blasted Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and touted Rep. Kevin Cramer in a Fargo, North Dakota, rally Wednesday night, as he made the case for electing more Republicans to the U.S. Senate. The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Mr. Trump said, highlights the need for those in North Dakota and elsewhere to vote Republican come November.

Cramer is vying to replace Heitkamp, who could be vulnerable in a state Mr. Trump won by 36 points.

"We must elect more Republicans, we have to do that," the president said Wednesday night.

The president has not voiced his top contenders to replace Kennedy since the retirement announcement, but in November the White House released a list of 25 possible names in the case of a vacancy.

"We have to pick a great one," Mr. Trump said Wednesday night. "We have to pick one that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years."

The president said Heitkamp would simply vote as she is told — unless, perhaps, political pressure forces her to vote for Mr. Trump’s nominee. Heitkamp did vote to support Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.

After the rally, Heitkamp issued a statement saying she has "always been eager to work across the aisle" for North Dakota.

"Anytime the president comes to North Dakota, that’s a good thing for our state. While we saw election-year politics today, I’m always willing to work with the president if he’s helping North Dakota – and if he’s not, I’ll speak up," Heitkamp said. "I don’t answer to a political party or president, I only answer to North Dakotans who deserve an independent voice in the Senate. That’s why I’ve always been eager to work across the aisle – including with the president – to get results for our state, and today’s rally hasn’t changed that."