According to a new bombshell report from the NYT, the relationship between President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has “disintegrated” in recent week “to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks”, prompting the Kentucky senator to express doubts if Trump can succeed in office and “salvage the presidency” after a summer of controversies and crises.
The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.
What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.
In a phone call on Aug. 9, Trump blamed McConnell for the Senate’s troubled efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Times said the call descended into shouting and profanity.
During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation. Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.
While McConnell was reportedly troubled by Trump’s remarks that placed equal blame on hate groups and counterprotesters, that was just the tip of the iceberg of the pent up animosity between the two. The Senator also signaled his unease with Trump’s comments to business leaders who quit their posts on presidential advisory councils in recent days, the NYT reports. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was last month’s failure by the Republican controlled Senate to pass Obamacare repeal, a humiliating defeat for Trump’s main campaign promise.
McConnell said in a speech earlier this month that Trump had “excessive expectations” about moving his legislative agenda through Congress. That led Trump to repeatedly lash out at McConnell on Twitter, questioning why McConnell has not been able to accomplish longtime GOP campaign promises. Trump went so far as to suggest to reporters at his Bedminster, N.J. golf club that, if McConnell is unable to pass healthcare reform, tax reform and an infrastructure bill through the Senate, he should consider stepping aside from his leadership role.
for the two GOP heavyweights walking into a month of serious major political maelstroms with the debt ceiling, spending bill, tax reform, and a retry at healthcare looming–among other fights. Both Trump and McConnell themselves refused comment for the Times story, but McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said the president and majority leader had “shared goals” including “tax reform, infrastructure, funding the government, not defaulting on the debt, passing the defense authorization bill.”
But while the bad blood between the two is hardly news, the question is how will the allegedly tamer, and Bannon-free Trump react to the previously unreported news that McConnell has wondered whether Trump’s presidency will survive:
In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly. While maintaining a pose of public reserve, Mr. McConnell expressed horror to advisers last week after Mr. Trump’s comments equating white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., with protesters who rallied against them. Mr. Trump’s most explosive remarks came at a news conference in Manhattan, where he stood beside Ms. Chao.
As the NYT adds, McConnell will no longer be silent should Trump use the bully pulpit for future attacks. Instead, McConnell is now fully committed to firing back at Trump, and protecting his GOP senators.
In a show of solidarity, albeit one planned well before Mr. Trump took aim at Mr. Flake, Mr. McConnell will host a $1,000-per-person dinner on Friday in Kentucky for the Arizona senator, as well as for Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who is also facing a Trump-inspired primary race next year, and Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Mr. Flake is expected to attend the event.
It’s not just the Senate majority leader: McConnell allies like former Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and former Republican National Committee finance chair Al Hoffman are quoted as well, making ominous predictions about Trump.
“Failure to do things like keeping the government open and passing a tax bill is the functional equivalent of playing Russian roulette with all the chambers loaded,” Gregg said of Trump, blaming him for in the Times’ words “undermining” congressional leaders, adding that if Trump “can’t participate constructively” the House and Senate would take matters into their own hands.
“Ultimately, it’s been Mitch’s responsibility, and I don’t think he’s done much,” Hoffman said, slightly critical of McConnell before adding that he believes McConnell will outlast Trump in this stalemate. “I think he’s going to blow up, self-implode,” Hoffman said of the president, per the Times. “I wouldn’t be surprised if McConnell pulls back his support of Trump and tries to go it alone.”
Whatever Trump’s kneejerk reaction following the conclusion of tonight’s Phoenix rally, the biggest loser may be the market which today surged on a Politico report that Trump’s tax reform suddenly looks like it has a chance of passing. If the NYT report confirms one thing, it is that when it comes to Trump’s legislative agenda, any chance of success in the through the Senate is virtually nil.
* * *