Mitch McConnell has been attacked by a key Trump ally and told to mend his relationship with the former president or face failure as Senate Republican leader.
Lindsey Graham’s decision comes amid a rumbling dispute between McConnell and Donald Trump, whose sway over the party remains nearly total despite his impeachment for inciting the murderous attack on Capitol Hill in service of his lie that his loss to Joe Biden was caused by voter fraud.
In the final round of the contest, McConnell sided with Mike Rounds, a South Dakota senator who said Biden had 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,” 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 important Republican since Ronald Reagan,” Graham said. “It’s his nomination if he wants it, and I think he will be re-elected in 2024.
“I like Senator McConnell, he worked well with President Trump to get a group of justices, including three Supreme Court justices on the bench, they got the tax cuts through by working together.
“But here’s the question: Can Senator McConnell work effectively with Republican Party leader Donald Trump?
“I will not vote for anyone who cannot have a working relationship with President Trump, to be a team to put forward an America First agenda, to show the difference between us and the Liberal Democrats, to pursue Trump policies… because if you can’t do that, you will fail. I am going to tell you.
Graham’s comment drew criticism, a columnist call he is “a spineless cop”.
It’s been a year since Graham apparently broke up with Trump – a man he once had noted would “destroy” the Republican Party and who relentlessly abused Senator John McCain, a close friend of Graham who died in 2018.
After the attack on the Capitol, Graham seemed ready to abandon his idol.
“I walked out,” he said.
But he soon came back, telling Axios, “Donald Trump was my friend before the riot. I try to keep a relationship with him after the riot. I still consider him a friend. What happened is a dark day in American history. And we will move forward. »
He also called Trump “sort of a cross between Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan and PT Barnum.” Helms, a senator from North Carolina, was a segregationist and a “brazen racist.” PT Barnum was a polemicist and circus impresario.
McConnell and Trump have been at odds for some time. Their latest spat began after Trump called Rounds “crazy or just stupid” for saying Biden had won.
McConnell joined Utah’s Mitt Romney and others in defending Rounds, telling CNN, “I think Senator Rounds told the truth about what happened in the 2020 election. agreement with him.
South Dakota’s John Thune – a candidate to replace McConnell if voted out – welcomed Rounds into “the club” of Republicans mistreated by Trump.