Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again, former President Donald Trump said in a 600-word statement released on Tuesday attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country. Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First,” he said.
Mr. McConnell has been in the news of late, having provoked the ire of both Democrats and Republicans. The Democrats criticised him for his apparent expediency and his inconsistent positions on the Trump impeachment trial and his view on Mr. Trump’s role in the Capitol attack of January 6. Mr. Trump attacked him for the same thing.
Mr. McConnell, who had voted on February 13 to acquit the former President for inciting an insurrection, told the Senate that very same Saturday afternoon that there was “no question” that Mr. Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for provoking the Capitol attack. In a Sunday op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, he said the mob was incited by Mr. Trump’s “unhinged falsehoods”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticised Mr. McConnell, saying he could have scheduled the trial after the House impeached Mr. Trump and before the former President had demitted office on January 20. She called him out for voting to acquit Mr. Trump and then saying he was to blame for the violence of January 6.
Mr. McConnell, however, argued in his op-ed that he could not have scheduled a trial between January 14 and 20 as it would not have been “remotely fair or regular” — that even pre-trial briefing period ended up taking more than a week. He reiterated that it was unconstitutional to impeach someone not currently in office.
In his Tuesday statement, Mr. Trump went all out — almost (he reportedly left out an unflattering reference to Mr. McConnell’s “chins” on being advised to do so). He nevertheless took credit for the party’s recent electoral gains in the House, while blaming Mr. McConnell for the GOP’s Senate losses — specifically for countering the Democrats’ and his preference for $2,000 coronavirus relief cheques with $600 cheques. (A section of the party had blamed Mr. Trump’s rhetoric for the GOP debacle in Georgia, where the former President attempted to delegitimise the elections and cried fraud, potentially demotivating voters from going to the polls).
Mr. Trump also took a passing shot at the McConnell family — alleging that their business holdings in China meant Mr. McConnell had no credibility on China policy. Mr. McConnell is married to Taiwanese American Elaine Chao, whose family owns a global shipping business, the Foremost Group. Ms. Chao was also Transport Secretary in the Trump administration. Her family’s connections to China have been scrutinised since at least 2001, when Ms. Chao was George W. Bush’s Labor Secretary. In 2017, Ms. Chao and the company (neither Elaine Chao nor Mr. McConnell have a stake in it) were again in the news for blurring the lines between official government work and the Chao family business.
Things have not always been this bad between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell. In fact, the two have been allied for most of Mr. Trump’s time in the White House. Mr. McConnell, who led the Senate then, was instrumental in getting Trump-appointees — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — confirmed to the Supreme Court. He helped get the Trump tax cuts through the Senate and “made short work of the 2020 impeachment” as the New York Times put it. So the current rift has Republicans worried. “I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own,” Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, told Fox News last week.
However, with seven Senate election victories under his belt, Mr. McConnell may know a thing or two about political survival. For now, he is the most powerful Republican in Washington and is focused on Republicans reclaiming their Senate majority in 2022. “My goal is, in every way possible, to have nominees representing the Republican Party who can win in November,” McConnell told Politico last weekend.