WASHINGTON – That Mitch McConnell-Donald Trump feud is still happening.
The Senate Republican leader, dismissed last month as “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” by Trump, made clear Wednesday he did not watch the former president’s comeback speech on Sunday – and does not agree with Trump’s suggestion that the party should “get rid” of GOP lawmakers who backed impeachment.
“We’re dealing with the present and the future, not looking back to the past,” McConnell told Fox News.
The back-and-forth between the ex-president and the Senate’s most powerful Republican underscores GOP turmoil as they look to regain control of Congress in next year’s elections and win back the White House in 2024.
Trump and McConnell have clashed over the latter’s assertion that the president’s false claims of election fraud provoked the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the subject of Trump’s second impeachment.
In his speech Sunday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump called on supporters to oppose the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him, and the seven GOP senators who voted to convict him.
“Get rid of them all,” he said.
“We want Republican leaders who are loyal to the voters and who will work proudly for the vision that I’ve laid out,” Trump also told CPAC delegates during his speech in Orlando, Florida.
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Only one of the Senate Republican impeachers – Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – is planning to be on a ballot in 2022.
In his Fox interview on Wednesday, McConnell said “absolutely we support Sen. Murkowski,” and dismissed the complaints about impeachment during Trump’s speech.
“Well, I didn’t watch it,” McConnell said.
Trump did not attack directly McConnell in the speech – the Kentucky Republican voted to acquit Trump, after all – but he did claim his endorsement carried McConnell to victory in his Senate reelection race last year. That is a dubious assertion; McConnell was favored throughout his 2020 race, and he won with nearly 58% of the vote.
The CPAC speech came less than two weeks after Trump issued a scathing attack on McConnell over his criticism regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection. Blaming him for the GOP loss of Senate control, Trump said in a written statement that “the Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm.”
“Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” Trump said in that statement, “and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again.”
While he voted for acquittal, McConnell also held “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.” He said he supported acquittal anyway because he believed the Senate lacked the legal authority to try an ex-president.
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During the Fox interview on Wednesday, McConnell said he would not take back anything from that floor speech. He also said Republicans are more unified than they appear to be.
While “we’ve had some internal back and forth that’s been widely covered,” McConnell said, the Republican Party is being unified in reaction to President Joe Biden’s administration. “We’re looking forward, we’re not looking backward,” he said.
Before the CPAC gathering, McConnell also told Fox News that he would support Trump if he again wins the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
Earlier this week, McConnell mocked Trump’s claim that an endorsement propelled his reelection in Kentucky.
“Yeah, well, I want to thank him for the 15-point margin I had in 2014 as well,” McConnell told reporters.