Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., could become the first big-name Republican to test former President Donald Trump’s remaining political influence.
And it could cost him his position in the Senate leadership.
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McConnell hasn’t indicated how he’ll vote during the upcoming Senate impeachment trial, but is reportedly livid at the former president over the Capitol riot – and has indicated publicly that he’s open to convicting Trump.
“The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty,” he said this week. “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”
He might be betting that Trump’s once-feared powers of persuasion are diminished now that he’s out of office.
But the early indications are those powers are as robust as ever – and McConnell could pay the price politically for abandoning the former president.
One unnamed Republican senator warned McConnell of what’s at stake if he votes to convict.
“If he does, I don’t know if he can stay as leader,” the person described as a “senior” GOP senator told CNN, adding that others in the conference shared that view.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., didn’t say McConnell could lose his leadership post, but definitely but him on notice.
“I don’t agree with him,” Graham said on Fox News. “That would be a crime, to provoke somebody, to incite them to violence. Show me the clip where he did that. What I would say about Senator McConnell is that I think he has been a good leader. He’s been a great street fighter. I think he’ll be a challenge for [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer. But he is, in my view, giving some legitimacy to this impeachment process that I think is wrong.”
Fox News host Sean Hannity was even more blunt, saying GOP leaders in Washington have “no backbone no principle, no courage, no vision” and are protecting the swamp.
And McConnell, he indicated, is a prime example.
“Now soon-to-be minority leader Mitch McConnell and a handful of other long serving establishment Republicans are trying to reassert control of the GOP, and their playbook is sadly all too predictable,” he said this week. “Instead of picking up the mantle and promoting the president’s America First agenda, they are cowering in fear, wilting under the pressure from the media mob, liberal Democrats, and big tech companies.”
Hannity urged Republicans in the Senate to turn on McConnell.
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“We need new leadership in the U.S. Senate,” he said. “You can represent the people of Kentucky. You’re showing basically right now that you’re the king of the establishment Republicans that, frankly, have always had and remain to have contempt for President Trump, but more importantly, the 75 million Americans that voted for him.”
Trump – often with the help of Hannity – has ended the careers of Republicans who opposed him by threatening to back primary rivals.
Former Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., didn’t seek reelection in 2018 after a public war of words with Trump, admitting that he wouldn’t be able to withstand an expected primary challenge by a Trump-backed candidate.
Ex-Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also a Trump critic, retired after facing a similar threat.
McConnell, however, might think he can take on Trump since he won’t face voters again until 2026, when he would be 84.
And given his age, may not be planning to run again anyway.
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But there is something he could lose, and that’s his position as minority leader.
It’s a position that comes with considerable perks and power… all of which may be on the line next month.
— Walter W. Murray is a reporter for The Horn News. He is an outspoken conservative and a survival expert.