Feb 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Lindsey Graham: "McConnell was indispensable to Donald Trump's success"

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox News' "Hannity" Tuesday night that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was "indispensable to Donald Trump's success," after the former president unleashed a scathing statement attacking the Kentucky senator in highly personal terms.

Why it matters: Graham, one of Trump's closest allies in the Senate, said that both McConnell and the former president are essential to Republicans' chances of taking control of Congress in the 2022 midterm elections. The rift between the two most powerful leaders in the party threatens to permanently paralyze the GOP.

Catch up quick: McConnell has not spoken to Trump since the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. Though the Republican leader voted to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial, he said in a scorching speech on the Senate floor that the former president is "practically and morally responsible for provoking the events" of Jan. 6 — signaling that he has no desire for Trump to play a role in the party going forward.

  • Trump responded on Wednesday by calling McConnell a "dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack," and saying that GOP senators "will not win again" if they stick by the establishment Republican.
  • Trump even threatened to "back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First" against Republican senators supported by McConnell.

What they're saying: "I remind everybody, Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment was 'Don't speak ill of fellow Republicans,'" Graham said on Fox News.

  • "I want you to know this: Mitch McConnell was indispensable to Donald Trump's success. Mitch McConnell got the tax cut through with a two-vote Republican majority. Mitch McConnell was much to credit for Amy Coney Barrett as any single person. Mitch McConnell working with Donald Trump did a hell of a job. They are now at each other's throat," he continued.
  • "I am more worried about 2022 than I've ever been. I don't want to eat our own. President Trump is the most consequential Republican in the party. If Mitch McConnell doesn't understand that, he's missing a lot."

The bottom line: "You own the Republican Party, my friend," Graham said, speaking directly to Trump. "But 55% of the people wanted you impeached and removed. You are the hope of the future of conservatism, President Trump, but we've got to make some changes to get back to the White House in 2024 and have a Republican majority in the Senate and the House in 2022."

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