Mitch McConnell has been attacked by a key Trump ally and told to repair his relationship with the former US president or face failure as Senate Republican leader.
The move by Lindsey Graham comes amid a rumbling dispute between McConnell and Donald Trump, whose grip on the party remains near-total despite his impeachment for inciting the deadly Capitol attack in service of his lie that his defeat by Joe Biden was caused by electoral fraud.
In the most recent round of the contest, McConnell sided with Mike Rounds, a South Dakota senator who said Biden won the election.
“If you want to be a Republican leader in the House or the Senate, you have to have a working relationship with Donald Trump,” Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, told Fox News on Wednesday night.
Acquitted in his second impeachment trial, Trump remains free to run for office.
“He’s the most consequential Republican since Ronald Reagan,” Graham said. “It is his nomination if he wants it, and I think he’ll get re-elected in 2024.
“I like Senator McConnell, he worked well with President Trump to get a bunch of judges including three supreme court justices on the bench, they got the tax cuts passed working together.
“But here’s the question: can Senator McConnell effectively work with the leader the Republican party, Donald Trump?
“I’m not gonna vote for anybody that can’t have a working relationship with President Trump, to be a team to come up with an America First agenda, to show the difference between us and liberal Democrats, to prosecute the case for Trump policies … because if you can’t do that, you will fail. I will tell you that.”
Graham’s comment duly prompted criticism, one columnist calling it “a spineless cop-out”.
It is after all a year since Graham apparently broke with Trump – a man he once gesê would “destroy” the Republican party.
After the Capitol attack, like many senior Republikeine Graham seemed ready to abandon his idol.
“I’m out," hy het gesê.
But he was soon back in, telling Axios: “Donald Trump was my friend before the riot. I’m trying to keep a relationship with him after the riot. I still consider him a friend. What happened was a dark day in American history. And we’re going to move forward.”
He also called Trump “sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and PT Barnum. ek bedoel, just bigger than life.”
McConnell and Trump have been at odds for some time. Their latest spat began after Rounds said Trump lost in 2020. Asking if Rounds was “crazy or just stupid”, Trump said: “I will never endorse this jerk again.”
McConnell joined Mitt Romney of Utah and others in defending Rounds, McConnell telling CNN: “I think Senator Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 verkiesing. And I agree with him.”
John Thune of South Dakota – a contender to replace McConnell should it come to a vote – welcomed Rounds to “the club” of Republicans abused by Trump.