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AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

In his interview on CNN's State of the Union, Mitch McConnell took the strongest position against Trump of all the senior Republicans who appeared on Sunday shows this morning.

McConnell's key divisions:

  1. On Russia: McConnell drew a clear distinction between the Russian government's moral footing and that of the United States (a rebuke of President Trump's generous comments about Putin to Fox host Bill O'Reilly.) McConnell called Putin a "thug," said he wasn't legitimately elected, and condemned him for messing around with U.S elections.
  2. On voter fraud: Asked about Trump's false claims of 3-5 million stolen votes, McConnell said there was "no evidence" that voter fraud existed in significant enough numbers to swing the presidential election. He also said he didn't want federal money spent on an investigation into voter fraud. Trump wants a "major investigation."
  3. On Trump's travel ban: McConnell expressed misgivings about Trump's executive order. "Proper vetting is important to the American people," he said, "but there's a fine line here between proper vetting and interfering with the kind of travel, or suggesting some kind of religious test...we certainly don't want Muslim allies who fought with us in countries overseas to not be able to travel to the United States. We need to be careful about this."
  4. On Trump attacking the "so-called" judge opposing the order: McConnell said "it's best not to single out judges for criticism. We all get disappointed from time to time at the outcome in courts on things that we care about. But I think it's best to avoid criticizing judges individually."

Why this matters: Republican House members still fear Trump, which gives the new President enormous power over the lower chamber. They're all facing re-election next year and they don't want the commander-in-chief, who has an incredible bond with many of their constituents, to target them on Twitter. But Senators are different beasts. They don't fear Trump nearly so much, and McConnell has already signaled that he'll remain his own man. Trump's biggest policy problems — the disagreement on border adjustment being a major one — will inevitably arise in the Senate.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear. Read episode 1.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.