At Issue: Full interview with US Sen. Tina Smith

The way President Donald Trump to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have handled the government’s response to the pandemic and the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice is drawing the ire of Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith (DFL).

Smith is running for reelection in a Senate race against Republican challenger and former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis. While a recent KSTP/ SurveyUSA Poll shows Smith with a commanding lead, the issues that keep popping up — coronavirus relief, a Supreme Court nominee and public safety — are ones she believes Republicans, like Lewis, have gotten wrong in the past.

In a one-on-one interview with Tom Hauser during this week’s edition of “At Issue,” Smith criticized the president on his initial response to the coronavirus outbreak and, according to her, his continued missteps.

“The president not only downplayed the importance of this virus. I think he failed to marshal a strong, national strategy around testing and contact-tracing,” Smith told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS. “The signals he has sent around the importance of wearing masks and keeping good social distancing has put us all at risk. It has been a real failure.”

Asked about the Supreme Court nomination and Republicans’ decision to move ahead despite national polls suggesting otherwise, Smith said her constituents can see right through the politics.

“They changed their rules in order to push people onto the Supreme Court that they want to have there and that’s what they’re trying to distract us all from right now,” she said. “I don’t think people in Minnesota like it one bit.”

Smith declined to say if she supports or opposes the idea of expanding the Supreme Court.

One issue her opponent has tried to make a centerpiece of the campaign is public safety. With recent unrest and rioting in the Twin Cities, Lewis, who’s married to a law enforcement officer, has tried to double down on some DFLers’ call to “defund the police.”

Smith said she doesn’t support “defunding the police.” The Democratic National Committee platform uses the phrase “reimagining” law enforcement.

“What we need to do is make sure that people are safe in their homes and their neighborhoods and their communities,” Smit said. “I think we need to look at how we make policing in this state and in this city that I love, Minneapolis, and all across this country, that policing is responsive and keeping people safe regardless of who they are.”