The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that Donald Trump recently spoke with senators and allies about potentially replacing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom the former president described as “very bad for the Republican Party.”
Trump was testing the waters to see if there was any interest in deposing McConnell, but Senate Republicans are reportedly unwilling to move forward with such a plan, according to lawmakers and aides.
Trump made no mention of potential challengers to McConnell, who represents Kentucky in the Senate. However, the former president stated that Republican senators should remove McConnell from the position of majority leader.
“They ought to,” Trump said, the newspaper reported. “I think he’s very bad for the Republican Party.”
According to some Republicans interviewed, McConnell’s removal appears unlikely.
Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana told the publication that he “doesn’t see that happening realistically.” Furthermore, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham stated that McConnell was necessary for Trump’s legislative accomplishments, but added that the former president is unlikely to stop attacking the Senate Minority Leader.
Trump and McConnell’s feud has been escalating for some time, and it now threatens to split the GOP as Republicans attempt to retake control of Congress next year.
Trump dubbed McConnell the “most overrated man in politics” in August after the Senate minority leader voted in favor of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. In a 67-27 vote that month, 18 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, including Senators Bill Cassidy and Mitt Romney.
“I have quietly said for years that Mitch McConnell is the most overrated man in politics—now I don’t have to be quiet anymore. He is working so hard to give Biden a victory, now they’ll go for the big one, including the biggest tax increases in the history of our Country,” Trump said at the time.
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Trump also attacked McConnell in July, claiming that he is a weak politician who is impeding the Republican Party’s progress.
The criticism came during the former president’s interview with Vanity Fair, in which he discussed how he tried to persuade McConnell to abandon the filibuster when Republicans controlled the Senate.
“He’s a stupid person. I don’t think he’s smart enough,” Trump said during the interview. “I tried to convince Mitch McConnell to get rid of the filibuster, to terminate it so that we would get everything, and he was a knucklehead and he didn’t do it.”
On February 13, McConnell spoke out against Trump after the Senate acquitted him in his impeachment trial for his alleged role in the January 6 Capitol riot.
“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said on the Senate floor following the vote. “The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president. And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.”
An excerpt from a new book on the closing days of Donald Trump’s presidency says that McConnell worked behind the scenes with now-President Joe Biden to ensure that the exiting president didn’t create more turmoil after losing re-election.
According to Business Insider, McConnell expected Trump to lose and had been grumbling to aides that “there were so many Maalox moments during the four years” under Trump, and things did not get any better after the election, according to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book “Peril.”
With that in mind, McConnell was concerned about keeping the two Georgia Senate seats in a run-off, so he contacted Biden through Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) and pleaded with him to refrain from calling Trump at all costs.
“McConnell worried Trump might react negatively and upend the upcoming, hotly contested runoff Senate elections in Georgia,” the book states according to Business Insider. “He also said he did not want Biden, a serial telephone user, to call him. Any call from Biden was sure to infuriate Trump and set off unwanted calls from him, asking if he believed Biden had won the presidency.”
“To keep things under wraps, McConnell reached out to GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas to speak privately with Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, a Biden confidant, about a ‘back channel’ for the then-majority leader to have a level of communication with the president-elect. Cornyn said that the senators were ‘in a delicate situation since Trump may have assumed that the men were ‘cutting a deal behind his back to cut him out,’ which would make him ‘even more irrational,” the re[prt adds.
Despite the fact that McConnell had been a governing partner with Trump, shepherding through three Supreme Court justices and scores of appeals judges, as well as passing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and other conservative priorities, he still had to deal with the wildly unpredictable president, who could kill a bill as easily as sell it to conservatives.
As the election results were still sinking in, the senator, who was closely watching the Georgia Senate runoff contests that would determine whether Republicans retained control of the upper chamber or ceded control to the Democrats, chose to give Trump some space, as Woodward and Costa wrote in “Peril.”
According to the book, despite being in the same political party, McConnell warned his staff that the now-former president’s actions might often lead to tense situations.
“There were so many Maalox moments during the four years,” he reportedly told his staff.
During this period, McConnell remained cautious with Trump, acting behind the scenes to prevent Biden from phoning him for fear of upsetting the president, whom the then-majority leader still sought to keep in his camp.