Ace of Spades: U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (KY): U.S. Senate Enabler-in-Chief: “You’re Fired!”



“Those who seek power are unworthy of power”.
– Plato







How Mitch McConnell Became Trump’s Enabler-in-Chief:


April, 2020:

The Senate Majority Leader’s refusal to rein in the President is looking riskier than ever.,

January, 2021:

    • “Sen. Mitch McConnell: US Capitol insurrectionists were ‘fed lies, provoked’ by President Donald Trump and others in power. ”, Jan. 19, 2021:
    • But McConnell waited until after the Senate voted to acquit Trump, to state clearly:
    • Senate Republicans on Friday blocked creation of a bipartisan panel to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, displaying continuing party loyalty to former President Donald Trump and firm determination to shift the political focus away from the violent insurrection by his GOP supporters. McConnell, who once said Trump was responsible for provoking the mob attack on the Capitol, said dismissively of Democrats, “They’d like to continue to litigate the former president, into the future.” May 29, 2021
    • McConnell on national voting rights legislation: McConnell said Democrats were putting forth a “solution in search of a problem”—and implied that he was simply shocked that his party would be accused of trying to disenfranchise voters. “States,” he said, “are not engaging in trying to suppress voters, whatsoever.” March 24, 2021
    • McConnell on the all-out Republican assault Tuesday on Democrats’ sweeping voting rights legislation designed to curb the Republican tsunami of state voter suppression legislation: “We should be finding ways to rebuild trust, not destroy it further,” McConnell told the Senate Rules Committee, pointing to the bitterly contested outcomes of the past two presidential elections. “But that’s exactly what a partisan power grab would guarantee. And that’s what (this bill) is all about.”
    • June 2021:  Mitch McConnell Was Willing to Risk American Democracy to Save the Senate
    • November 2021:  Mitch McConnell spent decades chasing power. Now he heeds Trump, who mocks him and wants him gone. This account of how one of Washington’s longtime Republican power players succumbed to the preeminence of Trump is based on interviews with McConnell, his former and current Senate colleagues and others who have known him over the years, as well as with Trump and other officials.
    • A long piece in the Washington Post by Michael Kranish today explored how, over the course of his career, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has singlemindedly pursued power, switching his stated principles to their opposites whenever it helped his climb to the top of the Senate. Eventually, in the hope of keeping power, he embraced Trump, even acquitting him for his role in inciting the January 6 insurrection.  Letters from an American, Heather Cox Richardson, November 8, 2021.


The Memo: McConnell gets swept away by rising Trump tide


02/28/24 6:24 PM ET
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) decision to step down from his leadership role, announced Wednesday, was both shocking and unsurprising.

The shock is rooted in the fact that McConnell has come to seem a permanent feature of the Washington political landscape. He was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and became Republican leader in 2007. He is the longest-serving Senate leader of all time from either party.

But McConnell’s decision to step aside was also foreseeable for a simple, stark reason beyond his age of 82. His party had moved sharply away from him — and toward his intraparty nemesis, former President Trump — even as he remained its titular head in the upper chamber.

The venom with which Trump attacked him was unignorable. More broadly, the traditional Republicanism of which McConnell was an emblem has been increasingly supplanted by an angrier, more performative style.

Trump Fully Devours the Republican Establishment

Long a dominant force over the party’s institutions, he is now moving to fully eradicate their independence and remake them in his own image.

Michael C. Bender

Feb. 16, 2024<


Donald J. Trump is stamping out the final flashes of independence inside Republican institutions with astonishing speed, demonstrating that his power continues to expand over the new party establishment he has created.

At the Republican National Committee, he is moving to replace longtime supporters with allies even more closely bound to him, including his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump.

In the House, Republicans are more compliant than ever. Most vividly, Speaker Mike Johnson — ostensibly the party’s top-ranking official — backtracked on an endorsement in a crucial Senate race because Mr. Trump disagreed. On Thursday, Mr. Johnson’s candidate ended his campaign less than one week after opening it.

In the Senate, which has been less beholden to Mr. Trump, his influence over a failed border bill made one of the party’s most effective lawmakers, Mitch McConnell, look weak.

The displays of obedience emerging in recent weeks remove any lingering doubt that the Republican Party is aligned to advance the interests of one man, signaling that a sweep of victories from Mr. Trump and his allies in November could also mean replacing checks and balances in Washington with his wishes and whims.


Behind the border mess: Open GOP rebellion against McConnell

The Republican leader told POLITICO that his critics “had their shot” already. But conservatives are not done whacking him over the immigration-for-Ukraine aid implosion.

Conservative hardliners once celebrated Mitch McConnell for wrestling the federal judiciary to the right and thwarting progressive hopes.

Now he is under open attack from the right for even trying to work with Democrats on the border.

The Senate GOP leader is facing internal resistance not seen in more than a year as Republicans descend into discord over two issues they once demanded be linked: border security and the war in Ukraine.

McConnell, now nearing his 82nd birthday, is determined to fund the Ukrainian war effort, a push his allies have depicted as legacy-defining. But now that his party is set on Wednesday to reject a bipartisan trade of tougher border policies for war funding, his far-right critics are speaking out more loudly: Several held a press conference Tuesday where they denounced his handling of the border talks, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) calling on McConnell to step down.

In an interview, McConnell rejected the criticism and said his antagonists fail to recognize the reality of divided government.

“I’ve had a small group of persistent critics the whole time I’ve been in this job. They had their shot,” McConnell said, referring to Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-Fla.) challenge to his leadership in 2022.

“The reason we’ve been talking about the border is because they wanted to, the persistent critics,” he added. “You can’t pass a bill without dealing with a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate.”

Despite that pragmatism, McConnell’s job is only getting harder. If he runs for another term in leadership next year, a tougher fight than Scott gave him seems almost inevitable.

That is in part because of Donald Trump, whom McConnell barely acknowledges after criticizing his role in the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021. The former president played a leading role in killing the border deal and has called consistently for McConnell’s ouster. And at this time next year, Trump could well be back in the White House.

More and more of Senate Republicans’ internal strife is seeping out into public view, exposing years-old beefs that are still simmering. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) posted a fundraising link asking donors to “kill this border bill” in the middle of a closed-door GOP meeting on Monday and demanded “new leadership,” while Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) memed McConnell as Charlie Brown whiffing on an attempt to kick a football held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

“I’ve been super unhappy since this started,” Johnson said in an interview. “Leader McConnell completely blew this.”

Trump and Speaker Mike Johnson helped squash the border bill’s prospects in the House while Ron Johnson, Lee, Cruz, Scott and Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) pummeled it on TV and social media. The intensity of that assault turned many GOP senators sour on a border security deal that would have amounted to the most conservative immigration bill backed by a Democratic president in a generation — a bill they once said was the key to unlocking Ukraine aid.

Though McConnell touted the work of Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and the bill’s endorsement by the Border Patrol union, he conceded what was obvious by Monday night: This legislation is dead.

“The reason we ended up where we are is the members decided, since it was never going to become law, they didn’t want to deal with it,” McConnell said in the interview. “I don’t know who is at fault here, in terms of trying to cast public blame.”

At Tuesday’s party meeting, Cruz told McConnell that the border deal was indefensible, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) questioned why the GOP would walk away from it, according to two people familiar with the meeting. That followed a Monday evening private meeting where Johnson got into a near-shouting match with Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), one of several senators who has tried to rebut Trump’s influence on the party.

Young played down the spat afterward: “Ron and I have a very good relationship. We can be very candid with one another.”

McConnell’s loud critics are among those most responsible for raising opposition to the border deal, attacking its provisions while the text was being finalized. They raised such a ruckus that none of McConnell’s potential successors as leader — Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and John Thune (R-S.D.) — offered to support it.

McConnell can’t be ejected spontaneously like a House speaker, meaning his job is safe until the end of the year. He also has major sway over the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC that may have to help Cruz, Scott and other Republicans win reelection.

And McConnell is not without defenders. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said any attempt to blame McConnell for the border crackup is “a bit misplaced.”

Indeed, McConnell was OK with just approving foreign aid back in the fall, but agreed to link it to border security after rank-and-file Republicans grew eager to extract concessions from Democrats in order to get Ukraine money.

“It’s not James’ fault, he did the best he could under the circumstances. It’s not Mitch’s fault,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

The historical record holds plenty of quotes from McConnell’s current critics asking for stronger border policy during the Trump administration. Many of them now have since changed their tune to say Biden doesn’t need new laws at all to enforce border security.

“We all wanted to see border security. And I think a lot of our members were demanding that in exchange for the rest of the funding. That’s an issue our conference needs to be aware of,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the No. 4 leader. “The conference wanted border security.”

The animosity McConnell now faces from Ron Johnson, Lee and others isn’t new either: They’ve questioned Senate GOP leadership’s decisions for years.

Ron Johnson’s been a thorn in McConnell’s side for years, particularly after many Republicans abandoned his reelection bid in 2016. Cruz has sparred with McConnell since getting to the Senate in 2013, Lee frequently breaks with leadership and a number of newer GOP senators voted for Scott over McConnell in 2022.

One GOP senator, granted anonymity to assess the situation candidly, said that the new wave of attacks could be happening because McConnell’s opponents sense weakness — or just out of “personal pique” over years-old disagreements.

“For three months it’s been nothing but border and Ukraine, border and Ukraine, border and Ukraine. I don’t know how many speeches I’ve heard … and now all of a sudden, it’s: ‘We’re not going to do that,’” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), another of the McConnell critics. “It just seems like total chaos to me.”

Either way, the 180 among many Republicans is evidence of a major drift away from McConnell’s style of Republicanism and toward Trump’s. McConnell hasn’t talked to Trump since the Jan. 6 riot and tried to turn the party in a surprisingly deal-centric direction during the first two years of President Joe Biden’s presidency.

Just two years ago, debt ceiling increases, gun safety and infrastructure laws passed with McConnell’s blessing — all a reflection of his view that protecting the filibuster requires working with Democrats on bipartisan bills.

Now the reality is that Trump, the likely nominee, doesn’t want a deal that Republicans set out to secure four months ago. Deal-making without Trump’s blessing appears impossible, and that’s a challenging dynamic for the longtime GOP leader.

“This wasn’t good for him. This wasn’t good for any of us,” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) of McConnell, whom he backed in 2022. “And I’m not gonna say he’s the total cause of it, but we got to have a better plan. This didn’t work out for us.”

Ursula Perano contributed to this report.

[Boldface added]


“McConnell, Republican lawmakers sign Supreme Court brief that supports Trump remaining on 2024 ballot”


Nearly 180 congressional Republicans signed onto an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Donald Trump’s legal battle to remain on the primary election ballot in Colorado. The long list of signatories to the brief includes someone who has largely steered clear of the 2024 race and who previously said the former president is responsible for provoking the 2021 insurrection: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)….

“The court below raced past numerous textual and structural limitations on Section 3, which are primarily designed to ensure that Congress controls the enforcement and (if necessary) removal of Section 3’s ‘disability’ on holding office,” the brief states. The signatories also argue that Colorado’s court “adopted a malleable and expansive view of ‘engage in insurrection,’ which will easily lead to widespread abuse of Section 3 against political opponents.”

The brief does not weigh in on whether the events of Jan. 6 were an “insurrection” — a term that’s central to Colorado’s court decision.

Led by Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.), a total of 179 Republican members of Congress signed onto the brief. The list of signatories does not include several moderate Republicans, nor does it include any of the House Republicans who hold seats won by Joe Biden in 2020.


GOP leader McConnell enters new year with questions over future


GOP leader McConnell enters new year with questions over future


But what McConnell chooses to do next remains a major question, and colleagues’ predictions are mixed.

The Senate Republican told The Hill on the condition of anonymity that they believe it is “baked” that 2024 will be McConnell’s last year in charge. 

“I think it’s just more a function of how many sunrises and sunsets he’s observed and how long he’s been in politics,” the member said.

Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) said he would be “surprised” if McConnell ran again and pointed to past conversations they’ve had “about how he wants to leave [the] conference.” 

“I personally would be surprised if he ran again for leader,” Mullin said. “But I will tell you, I don’t think anybody challenges him or beats him if he decided to run.”

Others believe McConnell’s plans could depend on who wins the presidency in November, given the bad blood between him and Trump and his long-standing relationship with President Biden.

“Who’s the president?” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said in November when a reporter asked if McConnell seeks another term as leader.

McConnell and his team are well known for playing their cards close to the vest, and this situation is no different. He has maintained that he will serve out the next year as leader and the remainder of his Senate term, which runs through 2026, but has declined to delve any deeper. 

“Anybody who tells you they know is kidding themselves,” one senior Senate GOP aide said.


The Race to Replace Mitch McConnell as GOP Leader Is Already On

The rumors about McConnell’s potential exit have led his would-be successors to try to, as a senior GOP aide put it, “one-up each other at every turn.”


All the Biggest Revelations From Sen. Mitt Romney’s New Book Extract

The Utah senator, who announced his retirement this week, has spent two years working with a biographer to unravel exactly how he became “the turd in the punch bowl” of the GOP.


That includes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Some of Romney’s most withering observations in the extract are reserved for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who served as Senate Majority Leader until 2021. The McConnell that Romney saw behind the scenes was very different from the one who played Trump’s toady in public. In private conversations, McConnell called Trump an “idiot” and told Romney he was “lucky” for being able “say the things that we all think” about him. (A McConnell spokesperson disputed this.)

McConnell’s alleged distaste for Trump came out in full force during the first impeachment trial. After the trial’s impeachment managers had finished their presentation, Romney walked past McConnell. “They nailed him,” McConnell remarked, according to Romney.

Romney, taken aback, said that Trump’s team could spin his misconduct to make it appear as though he was just investigating the Biden family’s corruption.

“If you believe that,” McConnell reportedly replied, “I’ve got a bridge I can sell you.” The Senate leader told Coppins that he did not recall this exchange, and it did not match his thinking at the time.

Romney messaged McConnell to warn him about the Jan. 6 attacks. McConnell didn’t reply

On Jan. 2, 2021, Romney got a heads-up from another senator who’d spoken to a senior Pentagon official, warning him about extremist threats that law enforcement had been tracking in connection to protests planned for Jan. 6.

Romney passed on the concerns to McConnell, texting him, “There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol. I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator—the President—is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.”

McConnell never wrote back, according to Coppins.


McConnell and the Future of the GOP Leadership

Sept. 1, 2023

The U.S. Capitol’s top physician, Dr. Brian Monahan, said yesterday that after consulting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his neurology team, the 81-year-old senator is “medically clear to continue with his schedule as planned.” 

The all-clear came after McConnell had abruptly stopped speaking during a press conference Wednesday, sparking concerns about his health and abilityto lead the Republican party in the upper chamber. Monahan suggested McConnell may have experienced lightheadedness, which he said isn’t uncommon during concussion recovery (McConnell suffered one in March). 

Nevertheless, several GOP senators are reportedly considering a “special meeting” to discuss the future of the party’s leadership. The incident has also raised concerns that it could disrupt Kentucky’s tight gubernatorialrace, where McConnell ally Daniel Cameron, the state’s attorney general, is relying on the ailing senator to help get out the vote. (ReadMore)

McConnell in Winter: Inside the GOP Leader’s Attempt to Thwart Trump

The Kentucky Republican is doing all he can to bolster Ukraine, preserve NATO and help his party maintain its Reaganite roots.


After a relatively harmonious first half of this year, House and Senate Republicans are on a collision course this fall over four issues, three of which pertain to McConnell’s quest: spending, supporting the Ukrainians and Trump’s candidacy. (The fourth is impeaching President Joe Biden, which is intended as retribution for Trump’s impeachment over, well, spending and Ukraine.)

This confluence of issues will test who has the upper hand in the GOP, at least in the halls of Congress. Is it the McConnell-led Senate, which largely wants to spend more on defense, deliver additional aid to Ukraine and is not exactly enthused about Trump’s resurrection? Or is it the House, where Speaker Kevin McCarthy is handcuffed to his party’s hardliners on spending and has little appetite to imperil his job by pushing through a supplemental package for Ukraine that Trump is sure to decry and perhaps pressure rank-and-file lawmakers to oppose amid demands that they, and McCarthy, endorse him?


“McConnell says voter fraud is rare and he isn’t worried about threats to democracy”

NBC News:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday that he isn’t worried about threats to American democracy after a national NBC News poll revealed voters ranked it as the top issue facing the country.

The Republican Senate leader also said that there is “very little election fraud” but that it “happens occasionally,” comments that clashed with ongoing claims from former President Donald Trump’s wing of the party, which has insisted that voter fraud is rampant and the 2020 election was stolen.

McConnell was asked at the Scott County Chamber of Commerce in Georgetown, Kentucky, about the results of NBC News’ latest national poll, which showed a majority of American voters support various investigations into alleged wrongdoing by Trump. The poll was conducted after the FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Aug. 8.

Asked about Americans ranking threats to democracy higher than other issues, including the cost of living, McConnell told reporters, “I do think it’s an important issue. There were those who were trying to prevent the orderly transfer of power for the first time in American history,” after the 2020 presidential election, “and that was not good.”

But the top Senate Republican does not believe that American democracy is facing immediate danger, citing efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power between the election on Nov. 3 and the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, that were “thwarted.”

“I guess that’s had some impact on the poll. … But look, I think we have a very solid democracy,” McConnell continued. “I don’t think of the things that we need to worry about, I wouldn’t be worried about that one.”


June 2022:

Don’t Forget That 43 Senate Republicans Let Trump Get Away With It

The former president attempted to violently overthrow the government of the United States, and his party ensured that he would face no consequences for doing so.


During former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment, even when Republicans insisted that the assault on the Capitol was an unfortunate consequence of heated rhetoric, most did not attempt to defend Trump’s conduct on the merits. Instead, they relied on the absurd technicality that the president was no longer in office, and therefore could not be convicted.

That was the rationale of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who accused Trump of a “disgraceful dereliction of duty” and afterward voted to acquit. McConnell then suggested that Trump could be criminally prosecuted, comfortable in the suspicion that would never happen.

Other Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, insisted that seeking accountability for an attempted coup would be “incredibly divisive,” and was therefore not worth doing. “The notion that we’re going to spend a week or two weeks on a trial on somebody who’s not even in office—it sounds to me like a waste of time,” Rubio told Politico in 2021.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas offered a more affirmative defense. After voting to acquit, Cruz said, “Donald Trump used heated language, but he did not urge anyone to commit acts of violence.” Whether they based their decision on the flimsy excuse that he was no longer president, or on the idea that he never meant to inspire the violence that followed his incitement, Trump’s defenders have always insisted that the former president acted recklessly but not deliberately.

I do not recall these excuses simply to point out how pathetic they seem in hindsight, given the gravity of the allegations and the clarity we now have about Trump’s conduct. I raise them because the thinness of the Republican rationales for acquittal is strong evidence that any justification, no matter how strained, would have sufficed, and yesterday’s revelations are unlikely to change the minds of many Republican legislators now. It is nevertheless crucial to establish for posterity what happened and why. But make no mistake: If those who collaborated with Trump’s attack on American democracy escape accountability, the calculus of high-ranking administration officials next time will be that there is a greater price to pay for opposing a coup than supporting one.

. . . .

This is cowardice, but also ideology: Since liberals are not Real Americans, it is no sin to deprive them of power by undemocratic means. In this view, Trump’s behavior might be misguided, but his heart remains in the right place, in that his mob sought to ensure that only those worthy to participate in American democracy can hold the reins of power, regardless of whom the voters actually choose.

Although seven Republican senators broke ranks and voted to convict Trump, most of the caucus remained loyal to a man who attempted to bring down the republic, because in the end, they would have been content to rule over the ruins.


April 2022:

Book details tension with McConnell over Trump’s bid to reverse Biden’s electoral win

Trump, hurdles loom for Senate election reform talks




Trump isn’t the only potential hurdle looming on the horizon for hopes of a deal on changing the Electoral Count Act, a 135-year-old law that lays out how the Electoral College results are counted.

But Trump’s decision to revive his criticism of former Vice President Mike Pence over his refusal to unilaterally throw out election results in states Trump lost, while also flirting with a 2024 run, is putting him at odds with the Senate negotiations.

“The statements that President Trump put out on the Electoral Count Act only underscores the need for us to remove any ambiguity that exists in the act, which is poorly drafted and has not been revised since it was passed in 1887,” said GOP Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), who was mocked by Trump as “Wacky Susan Collins.”

The bipartisan group, led by Collins and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), is still in its early stages after setting up five subgroups that would develop pieces of a proposal: Reforming the 1887 Electoral Count Act; protecting election workers; voting practices and rights; the election assistance commission; and presidential transitions.

The group is discussing codifying that the vice president’s role in Congress’s formal counting of the Electoral College votes is ceremonial, after Trump led a pressure campaign to try to get Pence to act unilaterally. They are also looking at increasing the number of lawmakers that must sign on to an objection before they can force a vote in both the House and Senate.

Currently it only takes one member of the House and one member of the Senate to back an objection to a state’s results to force a vote in both chambers, where a simple majority must support upholding the challenge.

The group’s efforts go beyond the Electoral Count Act and include discussing making it a federal crime to harass poll workers or election officials and giving states grants to improve their own election systems. And Collins also said that her group is also looking at “what you do if there are duplicates, or competing would be the better word, competing slates of electors.”

The group’s talks have the blessing of Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who reiterated this week, even amid Trump’s criticism, that he believes the Electoral Count Act needs to be changed.

“The best way to characterize how I feel about the Electoral Count Act is that it is flawed and does need to be fixed,” McConnell told reporters. [Boldfaced added].

The focus on the Electoral Count Act comes after a Democratic push to pass a sweeping voting rights and election reform bill hit a wall in the Senate with Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) sticking with their long-held opposition to changing the legislative filibuster, a step that would be required because of GOP opposition to the legislation.

But Collins, asked if pieces of the sweeping election bill had a home in the bipartisan group’s efforts, warned against reviving the months-long fight over voting legislation.

“My goal is to have a bipartisan bill that can secure 60 or more votes in the Senate,” she said. “If we re-litigate issues that have already been rejected by the Senate, then I think it would be very difficult for us to reach the 60-vote margin.”


McConnell’s revealing squirm session on why he’d still back Trump


 It’s just that, in an interview in which McConnell said he had real moral red lines, he didn’t wind up saying where he drew them. Indeed, the exchange suggested he doesn’t see any role for morality in this decision.

That’s the logical extension of saying you have an “obligation” to support your party’s nominee — apparently, no matter what they’ve done, or might yet do.


“Journalists [and voters] could better cover this moment in our history by focusing . . . on the consequences for the country if Trump wins again. How will American life change? Who will benefit? Who will suffer? The question should be “not the odds, but the stakes” as a principle for better campaign coverage.”

— Jay Rosen, Professor of journalism at New York University [as reported by Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, May 16, 2023