Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces tough decisions about how to handle the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, after tacitly backing Trump’s election fraud claims before finally denouncing him after the U.S. Capitol riot.
An article in the New Yorker on Saturday examines McConnell’s tense relationship with Trump since the November election, suggesting the Kentucky Republican was desperate to prevent Trump from pulling support from the GOP‘s two candidates in the January 5 Senate runoffs.
‘He knew he had to keep the team together for Georgia,’ a former Trump Administration official close to McConnell’s circle told the magazine. ‘For him, being Majority Leader was the whole ballgame. It’s hard to overstate. It’s pretty obvious that for McConnell one of the reasons he was so indulgent of Trump was Georgia.’
After the Republicans lost both Georgia seats, and their Senate majority, at least 16 Republican senators would have to side with Democrats to secure an impeachment of Trump.
McConnell has been cagey about how he will handle the trial, but a Republican insider told the New Yorker that Trump provoked the senator’s fury with a secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago to demand Republican Senate candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue back his unfounded election fraud claims.
A Republican insider says Trump held a secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago to demand Republican Senate candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Purdue back his unfounded election fraud claims
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell faces tough decisions about how to handle the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, and is reportedly furious over the Georgia runoffs
Loeffler and Perdue (seen above with Mike Pence) both lost their runoffs on January 5
Days before the runoff election Trump forced Perdue to leave the campaign trail for a secret meeting at Mar-a-Lago, the insider said, calling Trump a ‘thug’.
Trump threatened to withhold his support for Loeffler and Perdue, and refused to campaign for them unless they joined his attacks on Georgia’s election officials, the insider said.
At the Mar-a-Lago meeting, the person said, Trump not only demanded support for his election fraud claims but pressured Purdue to back his demand for $2,000 individual stimulus checks, an amount McConnell had rejected.
Some political observers told the magazine that they expected McConnell to avoid convicting Trump for fear of splitting the Republican Party.
Stuart Stevens, a founder of the anti-Trump Republican group Lincoln Project, claimed that McConnell ‘is trying to have it both ways.’
‘He absolutely doesn’t want to impeach and convict Trump. It would split his base and cause members of his caucus to face primary challengers,’ Stevens told the magazine.
Donald Trump plays golf at West Palm Beach International Golf Course on Saturday
Trump threatened to withhold his support for Loeffler and Perdue, and refused to campaign for them unless they joined his attacks on Georgia’s election officials, an insider said
Other observers aren’t so sure, and believe McConnell will seize the opportunity to purge Trump from the party and prevent him from running in 2024.
‘I think he sees a chance to make Trump this generation’s version of Nixon, leaving no doubt who is at the top of the Republican heap, said Al Cross, a veteran political reporter and the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism, at the University of Kentucky, said, of McConnell
Jim Manley, who served as the senior communications adviser to Harry Reid, the former Democratic Majority Leader, pointed to McConnell’s statement that Trump ‘provoked’ the Capitol mob as a signal of definitive split.
‘There is no going back now. He has decided to cut his losses, and do what he can to make sure Trump is no longer a threat to the Republican Party,’ Manley told the New Yorker.
Trump is the first president to be twice impeached and the first to face a trial after leaving office.
The charge this time is ‘inciting violence against the government of the United States.’ His impeachment lawyer will be Butch Bowers.
Some observers believe McConnell will seize the opportunity to purge Trump from the party and prevent him from running in 2024 by encouraging a conviction in the Senate trial
Opening arguments in the trial will begin the week of February 8. House Democrats who voted to impeach Trump last week for inciting the storming of the Capitol say a full reckoning is necessary before the country – and the Congress – can move on.
For weeks, Trump rallied his supporters against the election outcome and urged them to come to the Capitol on January 6 to rage against Biden’s win.
Trump spoke to the crowd near the White House shortly before they marched along Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill.
‘We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen,’ Trump said. ‘You don´t concede when there´s theft involved. Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore.’
Later he said: ‘If you don´t fight like hell you´re not going to have a country anymore.’ He told supporters to walk to the Capitol to ‘peacefully and patriotically’ make your voices heard.
Trump has taken no responsibility for his part in fomenting the violence, saying days after the attack: ‘People thought that what I said was totally appropriate.’
Unlike a criminal trial, where there are strict rules about what is and isn´t evidence, the Senate can consider anything it wishes.