Mitch McConnell endorses Trump after years of acrimony between two men

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) endorsed Donald Trump for president on Wednesday after years of acrimony between the two men, cementing Trump’s continued hold on the Republican Party.

“It is abundantly clear that former President Trump has earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee for President of the United States,” McConnell said in a statement to The Washington Post. “It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support. During his presidency, we worked together to accomplish great things for the American people including tax reform that supercharged our economy and a generational change of our federal judiciary — most importantly, the Supreme Court. I look forward to the opportunity of switching from playing defense against the terrible policies the Biden administration has pursued to a sustained offense geared towards making a real difference in improving the lives of the American people.”

McConnell — who has announced he will step down from his leadership role in November — is one of the most influential Washington Republicans to back Trump, and the endorsement was a remarkable, if expected, move from the Kentucky Republican. He has held out in recent weeks as other Republicans have lined up to back Trump, including many who wanted a different nominee, and his endorsement means that almost every powerful cog in the Republican apparatus is directly behind the former president.

McConnell declared his endorsement as former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley announced Wednesday morning that she is suspending her campaign, leaving Trump with no remaining major opponents.

McConnell’s move is likely to have little effect with Trump’s supporters but could persuade Republican donors close to McConnell to contribute to Trump — and his words could matter to some of Trump’s critics in the party. McConnell has also faced pressure from some Republicans to endorse Trump, though people close to him said most of his supporters and allies were not clamoring for such a move. Biden recently called McConnell a “friend” in a statement, and the two men have spoken occasionally.

A Trump adviser said he welcomed the endorsement, and the campaign believes it could help with some donors and Republicans.

Trump needs to unite the Republican Party behind him, and Haley, while losing overwhelmingly to Trump, won 30 or 40 percent of the vote in many states. Many of her supporters are currently unwilling to back the former president, which could cause him problems in the general election, exit polls have shown.

McConnell has privately derided Trump, publicly attacked him for his role in fomenting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and has not spoken with Trump for several years. People close to McConnell privately said after Trump’s presidency that the powerful Kentucky Republican did not plan to speak Trump’s name again.

“There is no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the event of that day,” he said after Jan. 6. He added that Trump “didn’t get away with anything yet” in a speech on the floor of the Senate that explained his decision not to convict Trump on impeachment charges.

Trump has mocked McConnell’s wife as “Coco Chao” because of her Asian American heritage and frequently derided McConnell as the “Broken Down Crow,” or in more pejorative terms. He has told advisers that he wanted to replace McConnell as the leader of Republicans in the Senate if he were elected, but McConnell has already said he will step down. During remarks to donors at his Mar-a-Lago Club in 2021, he infamously called McConnell a “dumb son of a b—-.”

But in recent months, the two men have had a détente of sorts: Trump has not attacked McConnell, and Trump adviser Chris LaCivita and McConnell adviser Josh Holmes have spoken for several months about the possibility of an endorsement, as the New York Times first reported.

McConnell, who led an effort in Trump’s presidency to confirm hundreds of judges and three Supreme Court justices, is a ruthlessly pragmatic politician in many ways.

The two men, while never personally close, worked together on certain initiatives during Trump’s tenure, and McConnell often defended Trump. In a 2022 interview, he said his effort was to move the country “right of center” and that he worked closely with Trump, and primarily Trump’s appointees, to do just that.

“Trump gets elected. I’m shocked. I’m absolutely shocked. As soon as I found out he won, the first thing that came to my mind was the Supreme Court,” McConnell said in a 2022 interview.

But he remained particularly critical of Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 attacks.

“I feel exhilarated by the fact that this fellow finally, totally discredited himself,” McConnell told Jonathan Martin, one of the authors of a book called “This Will Not Pass,” when asked about his feelings right after Jan. 6.

Trump, the Kentucky Republican said, “was pretty thoroughly discredited by this.”

“He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger,” he said, standing in a doorway of the Capitol after midnight. “Couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

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