Trump Rips Into Mitch McConnell in Speech to Party Donors
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump criticized Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans over his election loss, even while telling GOP donors in a Saturday-night speech that the party will retake control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections and the White House in 2024.
Speaking at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, the former president called McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch” for not fighting to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, according to a person who attended the event.
Trump recycled the false claim that the 2020 election had been stolen from him, and criticized McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who resigned as U.S. Transportation secretary a day after Trump encouraged his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol in what became a deadly riot. His remarks were first reported by the Washington Post.
Trump also hit his vice president, Mike Pence, for not rejecting the legally certified votes for Biden, the donor said. Pence, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, didn’t attend the event, and neither did McConnell, but some U.S. senators were in the room. The comments were similar to those Trump has been making in recent weeks, the attendee said.
Top Republicans, including Representative Liz Cheney and Senator John Thune, criticized the remarks in Sunday talk-show appearances as being unhelpful to the party’s efforts to rebuild after 2020.
Trump’s prepared remarks for Saturday had been cast as a call for building on certain gains the party made under him as the path to recovery, even though the GOP lost control of the House, the Senate and the White House during his presidency.
“We are gathered tonight to talk about the future of the Republican Party -- and what we must do to set our candidates on a course to victory,” Trump planned to say at Mar-a-Lago, where he’s lived since leaving the White House.
“I stand before you this evening filled with confidence that in 2022, we are going to take back the House and we are going to reclaim the Senate -- and then in 2024, a Republican candidate is going to win the White House.”
A person familiar with Trump’s thinking said the former president wasn’t explicitly acknowledging he may or may not run again, but rather is keeping everyone guessing, including the various Republicans considering their own 2024 campaigns.
And a person who attended the event said the former president teased a potential run while speaking largely off-script for about an hour.
Republicans converged on Florida this weekend for various events aimed at charting the party’s course back to power. Attendees at the RNC spring donor retreat in Palm Beach made a side trip to Trump’s club, reflecting the former president’s dominant position.
While Trump has talked about helping the party retake control of Congress in the 2022 midterms and the White House in 2024, he remains focused on his election loss and lashing out at McConnell, the Republicans who voted to impeach him, and others he considers disloyal or doesn’t like, such as Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Some GOP donors and leaders want the party to move on from the twice-impeached Trump. They’re concerned his prodigious ability to fundraise could crowd out hard-to-win campaign cash, and that he might use it to fuel battles within the party that could hamper its efforts to regain control of Congress in 2022.
“Anything that’s divisive is a concern and is not helpful for us fighting the battles in Washington and at the state level,” Arkansas GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
No Stolen Election
Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican and a target of Trump and his allies after voting to impeach him, said the GOP needs to be focused on the future and “embracing the Constitution, not embracing insurrection” that Trump provoked on Jan. 6.
“The election wasn’t stolen,” Cheney said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “If you attack the judicial process and you attack the rule of law, you aren’t defending the Constitution. You’re at war with the Constitution. And for us as a party going forward, we have to embrace the Constitution.”
Thune, the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, whom Trump threatened to oppose with a primary challenger after the South Dakotan wouldn’t support overturning the election, dismissed his comments as “part of the style and tone that comes with the former president.”
But Thune also suggested on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump’s comments will divide the party, and that his efforts to oppose Republicans who crossed him by backing primary challenges to them could hurt the party in general election races it needs to win.
“Republicans are much better off when we’re united and working to defeat Democrats,” Thune said. Making sure Republicans have candidates “electable in a general election” is what should unite Trump, McConnell and others, he said.
Trump, 74, is endorsing candidates he considers loyal to him and his agenda or are challenging Republicans that crossed him, including those that supported his impeachment. He relaunched an online store this week to sell merchandise, and Trump adviser Jason Miller has said the former president’s Save America political action committee has more than $80 million on hand.
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