Secret audiotape: Sen. Heller says possible Justice Kennedy retirement may help him | NevadaAppeal.com

Secret audiotape: Sen. Heller says possible Justice Kennedy retirement may help him

Nevada Appeal staff report

Dean Heller

According to a secret audiotape obtained by Politico, Carson City Republican Dean Heller believes the possible retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy could help him get reelected as U.S. senator in November.

"Kennedy is going to retire around sometime early summer," Heller predicted in Las Vegas last week, according to audio of an event he spoke at that was obtained by POLITICO. "Which I'm hoping will get our base a little motivated because right now they're not very motivated. But I think a new Supreme Court justice will get them motivated."

The 45-minute tape shows Heller defending President Donald Trump repeatedly, breaking only slightly with the president on issues like trade and gun control. "I'm not going to sit here and criticize him," Heller said when asked about Trump's stance on gun control. "Because everything else he's touched, like this economy, has been just incredible. So, I don't want to get too far in front of some of these policies."

Heller suggested Utah Sen. Mike Lee could be in line for Kennedy's seat if he retires, saying Lee is a conservative who could energize Nevada's electorate in the June 12 primary. Lee's office declined to comment.

"Mike Lee from Utah is probably on that short list of the next Supreme Court justice in our courts," Heller said during the Q-and-A session with the J. Reuben Clark Law Society in Las Vegas.

Heller did talk about the president's "crazy" tweets about North Korea, before quickly crediting him with fostering better relations with its neighbor to the south. "North Korea joined South Korea and goes to the Olympics. And they say, the only reason they did that was because of President Trump," Heller said.

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When Trump stated he would "take the guns first, go through due process second," Heller defended the president

"I think he misspoke, I can't imagine that this president believes that. I think today, he does not," Heller said. "Negotiator as he is, he says, 'I'm going to take a big bite, just so that I can negotiate it back.' I think he's doing the same thing on trade. I don't agree with tariffs, but I'm not going to criticize at this point until I see an end result."

Heller also said Robert Mueller's investigation should continue but also said Attorney General Jeff Sessions should appoint a second special counsel to investigate Democrats' efforts to compile damaging information on Trump.

"What I want is (the) Mueller investigation to continue. I don't want this thing coming to an end," Heller said. "I would have had the attorney general obviously do an investigation on the other side. They should be doing one simultaneously on both sides. … I've talked to the attorney general directly about it, but he's chosen not to do so."

Heller also did admit to Russian interference into the 2016 election and was concerned about the Russians interfering in the 2018 election. He also said about his reelection effort, "This is the most difficult race in America. This is the No. 1 race in America. They (Russia) did manipulate our elections. My biggest concern is — I'm going into '18 and my biggest fear is (the Russians are) going to try to do it again."

Heller faces a primary challenge from Danny Tarkanian and if he wins will face Democrat Jacky Rosen in the November election. Tarkanian issued the following statement in response to Heller's comments on the secret audiotape:

"The MAGA movement knew that DC Dean Heller's true colors would resurface again. Since the 2016 election, DC Dean has actively attempted to undermine Donald Trump at every turn. After I announced my candidacy for his seat, Dean has been trying — and failing — to rewrite history and trick voters into believing he supports President Trump.

"Dean must think very little of Nevada voters, since he's always trying to deceive them. He was a Never Trumper in 2016; and, to this day, Dean's words and actions are filled with contempt for Trump. The leaked audio published by POLITICO reveals Dean's true thoughts on the president. Last year, Dean called for an independent prosecutor to investigate President Trump. From the audio, we've learned DC Dean still supports the disgraceful Mueller investigation. Dean Heller appears to be privately rooting for the end of the Trump administration.

"It's abundantly clear now: Dean Heller has joined the Democrats, discredited FBI agents, the liberal mainstream media, and the Resist Trump movement in their attacks on the president. Dean Heller is back to his old self: a Never Trumper."

The POLITICO story can be read here: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/03/09/dean-heller-supreme-court-vacancy-audio-448240?lo=ap_a1.