Barletta knocks Mueller probe as Pence highlights tax bill
HARRISBURG — Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Republican challenger Lou Barletta jousted Monday over the Trump administration’s tax-cutting bill as Barletta criticized the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election won by President Donald Trump as going down “rabbit holes.”
Barletta, a four-term congressman from northeastern Pennsylvania and staunch Trump supporter, appeared in Philadelphia with Vice President Mike Pence, who flew in to promote Trump’s tax bill and to headline a fundraiser for Barletta.
Asked by reporters about fresh criticism by Trump of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference, Barletta said the investigation has run far afield of whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russians.
“And now we’re talking about porn stars and relationships,” Barletta said. “I don’t know how many different rabbit holes we’re going to go down. But … investigating relationships with porn stars from colluding with the Russians in elections are pretty far apart.”
Mueller’s probe is separate from the FBI investigation into payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels from Trump’s longtime lawyer before the election to keep quiet about a sexual relationship she says she had with Trump.
Asked whether he agrees with Trump’s characterization of Mueller’s probe as a “witch hunt,” Barletta said, “call it what you want.”
But, he said, there’s been no sign of collusion and “now we’re talking about relationships with a porn star. Do you think that’s fair?”
Speaking to the Pennsylvania Press Club in Harrisburg, Casey attacked the Trump administration’s tax-cutting bill, saying the vast majority of benefits are flowing to the nation’s highest earners.
Afterward, Casey said the bill “gave away the store to the top 1 percent” and could have been written to deliver a far bigger tax break to the middle class.
“There are some folks in the middle that will get a tax break, but it’s a lot smaller of course than even in a proportional sense than what the top 1 percent will get,” Casey said.
Barletta maintained that the tax cuts are boosting the economy and the vast majority of people are benefiting, even if companies are using cash from tax cuts to buy back shares.
“The fact is that 6 million people in America either got a bonus or a wage increase, 9 out of 10 people will see an increase in their wages,” Barletta said.
Barletta introduced Pence at a downtown Philadelphia hotel in the latest event promoting the administration’s tax-cutting law organized by America First Policies, a nonprofit that promotes Trump’s agenda.
Barletta badly lagged Casey in fundraising as of July 1, and no independent poll puts Barletta within striking distance of Casey. The race has hardly drawn any national attention, while the parties battling for U.S. Senate control in November’s election are focused on races in at least 10 other states.
Barletta maintains that the coalition that propelled Trump to a win of less than 1 percentage point in Pennsylvania over Democrat Hillary Clinton will deliver a victory for him in November.
Barletta also has said he expects Trump will campaign for him in Pennsylvania and marshal “a lot” of money from donors to help him. Pence’s fundraiser was expected to raise $300,000 to $400,000 for Barletta.
Libertarian Party nominee Dale Kerns expects to file enough signatures by the Aug. 1 deadline to get on the ballot.