The former Republican president goes on the attack and claims control of the Republican Party after his impeachment acquittal by key conservative lawmakers.
The war for the future of the Republican Party has now begun. The figurehead on one side is former President Donald Trump; on the other is Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans. He is the most powerful conservative in Washington in recent years; during the Trump era, he acted as the judge, jury and executioner of Trump’s political agenda. The 78-year-old senator from Kentucky exonerated Trump on Saturday in the impeachment trial. However, he delivered a devastating speech against the former president, whom he blamed for the assault on the Capitol. Trump reacted Tuesday in a statement calling him a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” and assured that Republican senators would not win again with a leader like him.
The writing reeks of the old anger-filled Twitter posts that have now, having been silenced on the social media platform, disappeared. Instead of countering McConnell’s remarks in a string of tweets that same Saturday afternoon, it took Trump three days to respond. Nonetheless, the delay has given him a chance to talk his head off. Trump attributes the loss of the Senate’s Republican majority to McConnell. On Jan. 5, Democrats managed to grab two seats in the conservative stronghold Southern state of Georgia and tie 50-50 in the Senate. Such a tie translates into de facto Democratic control since the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris, has the tie-breaking vote in the event of a draw.
“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm. 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 in his statement.
McConnell is one of the oldest senators in the Capitol. He has held his seat for Kentucky since 1985 and was reelected in the Nov. 3 election. This means that his seat is guaranteed until 2026 when he will be 83 years old. He is, therefore, a politician with little to fear. In 2015, when the Republicans regained control of the Senate, he became the Republican majority leader of the mighty chamber. As such, he acted as a foil to the Barack Obama administration and to Trump himself, whom he had disputes with concerning public funding for the construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. He proudly wore the nickname “the Grim Reaper” because he was the one who killed the bills that the Democrats would send his way.
While Trump was out peddling the voting fraud hoax to deny Joe Biden’s victory, McConnell remained silent for months. But in December, he abandoned the tycoon, and after the attack on Congress on Jan. 6, went on the offensive. “These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags and screaming their loyalty to him,” he said Saturday, despite voting not guilty on the charge of incitement of insurrection at the Senate impeachment trial.
McConnell argued that impeachment should be used to remove presidents from office. With Trump already out of the White House, McConnell argued he could be prosecuted by the ordinary justice system in case of a crime, even though the offense had been committed while he was still president (the change of administration took place on Jan. 20). “There’s no question [that Trump] is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day,” McConnell said.
This Tuesday, Trump struck back. He asserted McConnell is “destroying” the Senate Republican caucus and, in doing so, “severely damaging” America.* He regretted having supported him in his latest Senate campaign. “He begged me,” he said; without him, “I would have lost badly.”* He also accused him of doing “nothing” in the face of the economic and military threat posed by China because his family has “important businesses” in the country.* McConnell is married to Elaine Chao, a Taipei-born businesswoman who served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush and whom Trump appointed as his administration’s secretary of transportation. It was a time of respect and friendliness. In January, after the assault on Congress, she was one of the high-ranking officials who resigned in protest.
The altercation reflects the great divide that the Trump era and its nail-biting conclusion have created within the Republican Party. Ten members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach him and seven senators voted to convict him. Never before had a presidential impeachment trial garnered so much support from their own party, despite failing to reach the two-thirds majority needed for a conviction. Trump still has, however, a very influential role among the masses. A Politico/Morning Consult poll published on Tuesday shows that if the Republican primaries were held today, Trump would receive 59% of the vote. This is in comparison to other names that seem as likely contenders for the 2024 presidential election, like Mike Pence and Nikki Haley.
*Editor’s Note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.