Former President Donald Trump‘s Friday attack on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in which he accused the Kentucky Republican of having a “death wish” for supporting bipartisan funding legislation, reveals a growing rift between the former allies.
Trump had an amicable working relationship with McConnell throughout his presidency. The two worked together to pass legislation including the 2017 tax cuts, and McConnell overwhelmingly supported Trump-picked judges. However, that relationship soured after Trump’s election fraud claims in 2020, with their tensions representing a greater divide in the Republican Party between “MAGA” Republicans and more traditional conservatives.
On Friday, Trump attacked McConnell for joining Democrats in supporting a funding bill to avoid a partial government shutdown. The bill also contained more than $12 billion to support Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion. It ultimately passed the Senate with bipartisan support and has been signed by President Joe Biden.
“Is McConnell approving all of these Trillions of Dollars worth of Democrat sponsored Bills, without even the slightest bit of negotiation, because he hates Donald J. Trump, and he knows I am strongly opposed to them, or is he doing it because he believes in the Fake and Highly Destructive Green New Deal, and is willing to take the Country down with him?” Trump asked on Truth Social, his own social media platform.
He continued: “In any event, either reason is unacceptable. He has a DEATH WISH. Must immediately seek help and advise from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!”
January 6 Strains Trump-McConnell Relations
The 2020 presidential election, which Trump claimed, without evidence, was stolen from him by widespread voter fraud, appeared to be a turning point in his relationship with McConnell.
As Trump’s allies pushed the voter fraud narrative, which has been widely dismissed as not being backed up by credible evidence, McConnell recognized President Joe Biden’s victory after the Electoral College met to confirm his win.
“Many of us hoped that the presidential election would yield a different result, but our system of government has processes to determine who will be sworn in on January 20. The Electoral College has spoken,” McConnell said in a December 2020 floor speech. “So today, I want to congratulate President-elect Joe Biden.”
Trump then hit back in a tweet: “Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot). Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!”
Tensions continued to grow after January 6, 2021, when a mob of Trump supporters rioted at the United States Capitol building in a failed attempt to force Congress to block Biden’s Electoral College victory. McConnell ultimately voted to acquit Trump during his second impeachment trial, but still said he was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”
Trump then responded with a lengthy statement attacking McConnell.
“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. 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,” he said.
Trump, McConnell Continue Exchanging Barbs
Nearly two years later, Trump and McConnell continue exchanging back-and-forth jabs.
In March 2021, McConnell mocked Trump for taking credit for his 2020 reelection. McConnell, during a press conference, said: “Yeah, well, I want to thank him for the 15-point margin I had in 2014 as well.”
Last December, Trump accused McConnell of “folding” to Democrats after he reached a deal with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to end debate on the debt ceiling increase.
“He has all the cards to win, but not the ‘guts’ to play them. Instead, he gives our Country away, just like he did with the two Senate seats in Georgia, and the Presidency itself. The Old Crow is a disaster!” Trump said in a statement. Later that month, Trump described McConnell as “the best thing that ever happened” to Democrats.
In July, Trump blasted McConnell as a “disloyal sleaze bag” after the House select committee investigating the riot played clips of the senator working to clear the Capitol during the insurrection.
“Is this the same Mitch McConnell who was losing big in Kentucky, and came to the White House to BEG me for an Endorsement and help? Without me he would have lost in a landslide. A disloyal sleaze bag!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
Trump, McConnell Feud Shapes Midterms
Their feud has spilled over into some races in this year’s midterm elections, with Trump and McConnell having found themselves backing opposing candidates in GOP primaries.
In New Hampshire’s Senate race, Trump-endorsed candidate Don Bolduc defeated Chuck Morse, who received support from GOP leadership. Senate leadership aimed to boost Morse, who was seen as a stronger general election candidate.
“It’s a 50-50 proposition,” Reuters quoted McConnell telling the Scott County Chamber of Commerce in his home state. “We’ve got a 50-50 Senate right now. We’ve got a 50-50 nation. And I think the outcome is likely to be very, very close either way.”
Newsweek reached out to Trump and McConnell’s press offices for comment.