Trump calls McConnell an 'unsmiling political hack' in lengthy statement
Published Tuesday, February 16, 2021 11:36PM EST Last Updated Wednesday, February 17, 2021 5:34AM EST
Former U.S. President Donald Trump went after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, calling him "a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack" in a broadside attack just days after the Kentucky Republican voted to acquit Trump in his second impeachment trial.
After that vote, McConnell ripped Trump in a speech from the Senate floor, and the two have been estranged in recent months after working closely together during the former President's four years in office.
"Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again," Trump said in the statement. "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. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership."
Trump's call for compassionate leadership came in a petty statement full of ad hominem attacks, including a jab at McConnell's family, and after years of some of the most vitriolic political leadership in American history. The former President routinely insulted his critics and political opponents, as well as members of the military, his own health experts and fellow Republicans who he did not find sufficiently loyal.
Despite the potshot at McConnell's family and the insulting characterization of his personality, Trump wanted to lob harsher personal attacks at McConnell, according to a source familiar with Trump's desires. Trump adviser Jason Miller said an "earlier (version of the) statement was likely tougher. There was never a consideration to make a personal attack, though."
Trump asserted Tuesday that McConnell's shortcomings had contributed to the party's loss of the Senate majority and alluded to his baseless claims of election fraud.
"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.
Trump's lashing out follows his impeachment by a bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives last month for his role inciting the January 6 violent riot at the US Capitol, which resulted in the deaths of at least five people, including a Capitol Police officer. The former President and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, are being accused of conspiring with the far-right groups Proud Boys and Oath Keepers to incite the insurrection in a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, in his personal capacity.
The clash between the current and former GOP leaders comes as the Republican Party at large grapples with warring factions at odds over whether to continue in Trump's likeness or forge a path veering from the former President's legacy.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime Trump loyalist, told Fox News on Tuesday that while the two men together "did a hell of a job, they're now at each other's throat. I'm more worried about 2022 than I've ever been. I don't want to eat our own."
"What I would say to Senator McConnell: I know Trump can be a handful, but he is the most dominant figure in the Republican Party," th South Carolina Republican continued. "We don't have a snowball's chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump. If you don't get that, you're just not looking."
McConnell has repeatedly rebuked Trump's incitement of the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, though he voted to acquit the former President of the charge. In remarks on the Senate floor shortly after Trump was cleared in a 57-43 vote, McConnell suggested that the former President could be subject to criminal prosecution.
"There is no question former President Trump bears moral responsibility," McConnell wrote Monday in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal of the riot. "His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world's largest megaphone. His behavior during and after the chaos was also unconscionable, from attacking Vice President Mike Pence during the riot to praising the criminals after it ended."
CNN reported last month that McConnell had indicated he believed that impeaching Trump would make it easier to get rid of the former President and Trumpism from the Republican Party, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.
In the last weeks of Trump's presidency, the relationship between the then-Senate majority leader and Trump -- the two most powerful men in the Republican Party -- had essentially collapsed, multiple sources told CNN.
Trump's statement Tuesday adds McConnell to the list of Republicans whom the former President is targeting after they opposed him.
CNN reported last month that Trump is focusing his political energy on Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-ranking House Republican, who voted for his impeachment last month.
Trump's push comes as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, is working to shore up his relationship with the ex-President, including meeting with Trump at his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, in January. McCarthy and Trump discussed the midterm elections in 2022, according to a readout provided by his Save America PAC.