ERIE, Pa. — If there were ever those who questioned whether Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine had it in him to be an attack dog, today’s event on the shores of Lake Erie proved he isn’t at all afraid to bark – or bite.
In one of his longest and most pointed and detailed critiques of GOP nominee Donald Trump to date, Kaine went after Trump on subjects ranging from suspected ties to Russia, reports about Trump’s debts, his refusal to release tax returns, his doctor’s note and more.
“As I watch this thing, the Trump campaign just feels like Trump's next big con,” Kaine told a small outdoor crowd gathered here Tuesday afternoon. "He's hiding his tax return, he's hiding his financial bill of health, he's trying to cover up his web of foreign engagements and conflicts of interest, and he won't even release credible information about his health. Donald Trump, it's time for you to come clean. Release your tax returns, explain your business interests, start telling the truth. Because Americans -- Democrat, Republican and independent -- are entitled to the truth. It's like he thinks we're gullible, it's like he thinks we're suckers, it's like he thinks we're marks and that he can con us.”
On the campaign trail, Kaine has been launching tirades against Trump for weeks — on tax returns, on military policy, on business practices, on foreign debts, and last week even trying to link him to racist fringe elements of the country -- but for the first time on Tuesday raised questions about the Republican nominee’s ties to Russia and also matters related to Trump’s health.
"Donald Trump poses a unique threat to American democracy unlike anything we've seen in any presidential election in my lifetime,” Kaine said while describing how Trump "encouraged Russia to already get in and screw around with our elections,” questioning whether the Republican nominee could stand up to a Russian cyberattack and noting that Trump’s "close confidant Roger Stone says that he is in contact with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the group that’s helping spread stolen information including stolen information from the United States.”
Kaine said press reports "have revealed that Trump's been pursuing deals with Russian oligarchs, officials, and developers with deep ties to Russia since the late 1980s.”
"He got paid millions by an associate of Vladimir Putin to bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow,” Kaine charged. "Don’t you think the American voters deserve at least to get to the bottom of why Trump's relationship with Russia is so cozy?”
Kaine sought to connect the issue to Trump’s decision not to release any tax returns, indicating that those documents could prove where Trump has financial interests in foreign countries that could stand in conflict with any of his potential actions in the White House.
"All we know is that something strange is going on,” Kaine, a member of both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Armed Services committee, continued. "Because Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort resigned within the last two weeks after allegation of corruption and ties to officials in Russia and Ukraine linked to Vladimir Putin that he had failed to lawfully disclose. That's Trump's campaign chairman. Trump's go-to defense advisor, retired General Michael Flynn, regularly appears on Russia's government funded propaganda channel, and he was paid to attend a gala in Moscow where he sat two seats down from Vladimir Putin himself.”
Kaine also brought up Trump’s previous comments questioning a commitment to defending America’s NATO allies, then added, "Every one of these positions stands in total opposition to decades of our longstanding national security interests. And until he explains these troubling ties on national security issues, there is not one reason why one American voter should trust Donald Trump.”
Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the accusations.
After Trump and other Republicans have been bringing up questions about Hillary Clinton’s health, Kaine turned the issue right back at the GOP nominee, poking at the story of Trump’s famous doctor’s note.
"I thought it was interesting that Trump would start into this,” Kaine said. "Remember, Trump is the guy who released a medical note from his doctor that said, 'his physical strength and stamina are extraordinary.’ And it even said that at age 70, Trump would be 'the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.’ I’d like to see him go one-on-one with President Obama, but that's for another, that's for another day.”
"Well, this week we learned that Trump's doctor admitted that he wrote that note in five minutes,” Kaine continued. "Trump sent a limo over to pick up a letter from him. As the limo waited downstairs, he wrote this note up very quickly and, and this is either too funny to be true or too true to be funny, I can't decide. He says the words he used, he used them because 'he thought they would make his patient happy.' I mean, is that the standard for what the American voter is entitled to in terms of the information about the health of a guy running for President?”
Kaine also defended his running mate against charges from Trump about her own health, telling the crowd, "I have been on the trail with Hillary for five weeks and I can barely keep up with her,” calling Clinton, “very very tough and very very healthy.”
Kaine, the current junior senator from Virginia, former governor, and former mayor of Richmond, said that Trump’s lack of experience in elected office requires a more detailed examination of the real estate mogul’s past.
"He has no comparable public record, and so we know less about him than we know about other candidates in modern history” Kaine said. "And that makes these questions about his finances, about his taxes, about his foreign connections, about his health even more urgent than usual.”
Kaine is in the middle of a two-day swing through Pennsylvania, a state he hasn’t campaigned in since his bus tour with Clinton right after the Democratic National Convention last month. A Monmouth poll released Tuesday has Clinton with an 8-point lead in the state, 48% to 40% among likely voters.