Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is seeking to end his running feud with President Trump, which escalated this weekend when the former president insulted him as a “dumb son of a bitch” and a “stone-cold loser” for not backing his false claims about the election.
Trump’s comments were especially stinging as they were widely publicized and came one day after Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), gave Trump a “Champion of Freedom Award” at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
Trump lashed out at McConnell the following Saturday evening at a Republican donor event, where he blamed him for Republicans losing the White House.
“If that were Schumer instead of this dumb son of a bitch Mitch McConnell they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it,” Trump said, referring to newly minted Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the election results.
McConnell on Tuesday wanted no part in the food fight with Trump and said he’s more focused on trying to unify the Republican Party to oppose what he calls President Biden’s “far-left” agenda.
“What I’m concentrating on is the future and what we are confronted with here is a totally left-wing administration, with a slight majority in the House, a 50-50 Senate trying to transform America into something no one voted for last year,” McConnell told reporters.
“That’s what I’m concentrating on,” he said, ignoring a follow-up question on Trump.
McConnell on Tuesday signaled he’s not interested in continuing the feud that has simmered with Trump since Dec. 15, when he last spoke to the former president to inform him that he had recognized Biden as the president-elect. The Electoral College formally voted the previous day — Dec. 14 — to elect Biden the 46th president.
McConnell has told reporters that he hasn’t spoken to Trump since mid-December and now rarely even invokes the former president by name.
McConnell made it clear he blamed Trump for inciting a crowd that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 when Congress was holding a special joint session to tally the Electoral College vote.
He voted to acquit Trump on an article of impeachment accusing him of inciting an insurrection but in a searing floor speech condemned Trump’s actions preceding the riot as “a disgraceful dereliction of duty.”
Trump hit back at McConnell in lengthy statement a few days later that described the Senate GOP leader as “a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack.”
“If Republican senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” he warned.
McConnell’s allies say he’s ready to put the sniping to rest, even though it’s not clear whether Trump’s ready to let grudges go.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), McConnell’s top deputy, on Tuesday said the Senate GOP leader doesn’t have any ill will toward Trump and wants the feud to end.
That’s one reason why McConnell didn’t take the bait at a press conference and hit back at Trump’s personal attack.
“Right now, it’s sort of a one-sided thing. The leader has no animosity and he’s made it very clear he wants to work with the president to get the majority back,” Thune said Tuesday.
Many Republican senators view Trump’s attacks on McConnell as unfair and out of bounds, but very few if any of them want to risk the former president’s wrath — or the wrath of his loyal supporters — by calling him out.
“I wish he wouldn’t do it, but I don’t think there’s any way that you could change how he does things. I think we just have to adapt the best we can and stay focused on what are our objectives and that’s get the [Senate] majority back in 2022,” Thune said of Trump’s behavior.
McConnell and other GOP leaders still see Trump as important to revving up the Republican base and motivating rural and working-class white voters who don’t always turn out at the polls
Before their relationship went sour, McConnell credited Trump for turning out voters in North Carolina and other battleground states that Republicans won on Nov. 3.
Republicans face a difficult map in 2022, with 20 GOP seats up for reelection compared to 14 Democratic seats. Democrats have pick-up opportunities in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin, while Republicans will play offense in Arizona, Georgia, New Hampshire and Nevada.
Thune said he’s “hoping the president and leader at some point can come to an understanding.”
Thune himself has come under attack from Trump for trying to persuade Senate Republican colleagues in December and January not to challenge the vote of the Electoral College during a special joint session of Congress.
Only a few senators raised objections to the Electoral College count on Jan. 6, when a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of the election results.
Trump slammed Thune as a “Republican in Name Only” and “Mitch’s boy” in a December tweet, which also threatened: “He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!”
Thune, who is expected to run for reelection next year, also shrugged off Trump’s barbs when asked about them during a “Fox News Sunday” interview with Chris Wallace.
On Tuesday, he explained what he, McConnell and other Senate Republicans are thinking.
“Everybody right now, including the leader, who is a target, is saying we are more interested in focusing our ire on the Democrats, who with their policies are doing great harm to the country and these Republican family feuds aren’t helpful, aren’t constructive,” Thune said. “The leader is saying the president is blowing off steam and we’ll live to fight in 2022 and hopefully with the team all on the same page.”
Scott, the NRSC chairman who honored Trump on Friday, was taken aback by his excoriating criticism of McConnell at Mar-a-Lago.
“I disagree with them completely,” he said of Trump’s comments.
“I’ve known Mitch — I have a picture with him when I had hair. He’s a smart guy. He knows these things better than most people,” he added.
Scott said he was only trying to recognize Trump’s public policy contributions and had no intention that the NRSC award would become entwined in media stories about the president’s feud with McConnell.
“I created the award to highlight elite donors and certain leaders about their policy. That was idea on Friday, to do that,” he explained. “The whole deal was to highlight the good things that happened while Trump was president.”
Via The Hill