Former President Donald Trump fired back at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, releasing a scathing statement after McConnell published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal blaming him for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” Trump said in a written statement. “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.”
The Senate voted on Saturday to acquit Trump of the charge of "incitement of insurrection" in relation to the siege of the Capitol that followed the then president's Jan. 6 rally in Washington. While McConnell did not join the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump, he issued a searing assessment of the ex-president's behavior in a speech given on the Senate floor and published an op-ed on Monday in the Wall Street Journal that laid blame for the violence at Trump's feet.
“There is no question former President Trump bears moral responsibility. His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world’s largest megaphone,” McConnell wrote. “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.”
In response, Trump, whose acquittal allows him to legally pursue a return to the White House in 2024, seemed to relish the opportunity to tear into McConnell.
“The Democrats and Chuck Schumer play McConnell like a fiddle — they’ve never had it so good — and they want to keep it that way! We know our America First agenda is a winner, not McConnell’s Beltway First agenda or Biden’s America Last,” Trump said in his statement, adding, “Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again. He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country.”
Trump also went after McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, his own former secretary of transportation, insinuating that her family’s business presented a conflict of interest.
“Likewise, McConnell has no credibility on China because of his family’s substantial Chinese business holdings. He does nothing on this tremendous economic and military threat,” Trump said in the statement without clarifying why, given those circumstances, he had appointed her to his Cabinet in the first place.
Chao resigned her position two days after the Capitol riot, which she called “entirely avoidable.”
Since being deplatformed on social media, Trump has not engaged in the rapid-response attacks that typified his four years in office. Still, polls of Republicans show that he remains the most popular leader of his party and, should he decide to run for president again, could prove a formidable contender. Fifty-nine percent of Republican voters say they want Trump to continue to play a “major role” in the GOP, according to a Morning Consult poll released Tuesday, and 54 percent said they would back him if he runs for president in 2024.
In his statement on Tuesday, Trump signaled his intent to press forward with endorsements for candidates who support his America First agenda.
“Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First,” Trump said. “We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful, and compassionate leadership. Prior to the pandemic, we produced the greatest economy and jobs numbers in the history of our Country, and likewise, our economic recovery after Covid was the best in the world.”
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