Trump Calls McConnell a ‘Hack,’ Vows to Back Primary Challenges
(Bloomberg) -- Former President Donald Trump vowed in a blistering, invective-filled statement Tuesday to back primary challengers to Republicans who remain loyal to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, drawing sharp battle lines between the two GOP factions.
In a lengthy response to McConnell’s Senate floor speech after Trump’s acquittal on an impeachment charge Saturday in which he said Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Trump called McConnell “a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack,” and said that if Republican senators remain loyal to McConnell, “they will not win again.”
“Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First,” Trump said in the statement issued by his office. “We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership.”
Trump blamed McConnell for the GOP losing control of the Senate and said “the Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm.”
A McConnell spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump issued the statement three days after the Senate voted to acquit him on the impeachment charge of inciting the mob of his supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol and interrupted the counting of Electoral College votes ratifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election.
Trump went after McConnell from a variety of angles, including an attack on McConnell’s wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who quit immediately after the riot and whose family owns and controls a shipping company that operates in China. He said that McConnell has “no credibility on China” because of it.
Initial drafts of the statement included even more pointed attacks on McConnell, including a line mocking his appearance and weight, according to a person familiar with the process.
The McConnell-Trump rift that has burst into public view is part of a schism in the Republican Party between those who remain loyal to Trump and those who are looking to rebuild the party following Trump’s tumultuous four years in office.
McConnell voted to acquit Trump on procedural grounds but said in a scorching speech afterward that the former president was “practically and morally responsible” for the attack on the Capitol and could still face criminal or civil action.
McConnell and Trump had an uneasy relationship that McConnell managed by rarely engaging Trump publicly, making his floor speech all the more extraordinary. He was Trump’s chief ally in shepherding the 2017 tax law and filling the federal judiciary with Trump’s nominees.
The Senate minority leader said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the key for Republican chances of retaking control of the Senate in 2022 is ”getting candidates who can actually win in November.” He said “that may or may not involve trying to affect the outcome of the primaries.”
In his statement, Trump said Democrats and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer “play McConnell like a fiddle” and suggested he was was to blame for Republicans losing the Senate.
“McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse,” Trump said.
Trump blamed McConnell for Democrats winning the two Senate runoff races on Jan. 5 in Georgia to take power in the Senate, but some Republicans blame Trump’s focus on trying to overturn the election results in Georgia with baseless claims that the election was stolen for hurting Republican turnout.
“This is a big moment for our country, and we cannot let it pass by using third rate ‘leaders’ to dictate our future!” Trump said in his statement.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.