Elections

Bad timing? Vulnerable senator became Trump adviser just before video went public

FILE– U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has condemned Donald Trump’s remarks about sexually assaulting women but says he’s still supporting Trump for president.
FILE– U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has condemned Donald Trump’s remarks about sexually assaulting women but says he’s still supporting Trump for president. AP

North Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, who is embroiled in a tough re-election race, was announced as a Donald Trump national security adviser about 20 minutes before the publication of a vulgar video that shows the presidential nominee bragging about groping women.

Later in the day Friday, Burr condemned Trump’s remarks but did not pull his endorsement. Since then, Burr has said he is “going to watch (Trump’s) level of contrition over the next few days to determine my level of support.”

As he campaigned Monday in North Carolina, Burr said he’s sticking by Trump, saying he thinks Trump has sufficiently apologized multiple times.

“When I look at what the country needs – and that’s an economy that grows, jobs that are created and a strong national defense – I’m convinced that I can’t get there with Hillary Clinton. So, yeah, I’m supporting Donald Trump,” Burr said.

It’s too late, Burr said, for Republicans to rethink the top of their ticket.

“We don’t get to pick, now, any additional folks to run,” he said. “So we have to take who we think best meets the way forward in the future.”

Trump announced Burr as a new member of his national security advisory council late Friday afternoon. Around 4 p.m. the Washington Post broke news of the controversial Trump tape. Trump was quick to issue an apologetic statement while several prominent Republican leaders ditched their support of the nominee.

Trump and his allies entered Sunday’s debate dealing with fallout from a recording made in 2005. In the tape, made public Friday, Trump brags about how his fame allows him to “do anything.” He boasted about grabbing women “by the p---y,” kissing women without consent and attempting to have sex with a married woman.

Burr, who is running for his third term in the Senate, called those remarks offensive and inappropriate on Friday. He’s in a tough reelection fight with Democratic challenger Deborah Ross.

Asked about the Sunday night debate, Burr said, “Clearly, both candidates proved that they are not role models for the next generation.”

Burr brings high-level credentials to Trump’s national security advisory council. As chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, Burr has oversight over the CIA, the NSA and other federal agencies critical to national security.

Earlier this year, some floated Burr’s name as a potential vice presidential candidate pick. But, it appears Burr was never a finalist for Trump’s running mate spot and, for months, the incumbent senator has balanced his support for Trump alongside occasionally rebuking him.

Many top-ranking Republicans over the weekend not only disavowed Trump’s recorded comments – which the nominee has cast as “locker room”-style banter – but also withdrew their endorsements. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., says he won’t defend Trump any longer and will not campaign with him.

North Carolina’s other U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis – who has said any Republican who doesn’t support Trump is a “Republican in name only” or RINO – said Saturday he found Trump’s comments “indefensible.”

Burr’s Democratic opponent, Deborah Ross, called Trump’s comments about women “vile” and criticized Burr’s continued support. Polls show the two candidates practically tied.

Trump’s announcement of his new national security squad says the nominee met with supporters in New York on Friday. The group will advise Trump on issues like foreign policy, nuclear non-proliferation, fighting terrorism and “rebuilding our national defense,” according to a campaign statement.

New members to the Trump advisory council former CIA Director James Woolsey, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and Rep. Darryl Issa of California. Already on the team were Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama; Gen. Mike Flynn, a past director of the federal Defense Intelligence Agency; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; and nine others.

Anna Douglas: 202-383-6012, @ADouglasNews

Greg Gordon: 202-383-6152, @greggordon2

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