- Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would still support Trump in 2024.
- Axios’ Jonathan Swan asked why, given that McConnell called Trump “morally responsible” for January 6.
- McConnell responded: “I think I have an obligation to support the nominee of my party.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would back Trump if the former president were to win the 2024 GOP presidential nomination because he has an “obligation” to support the party’s nominee.
McConnell outlined his stance on Trump’s candidacy in an interview with Axios journalist Jonathan Swan this week.
“Help me understand this. I watched your speech last year in February on the Senate floor after the second impeachment vote for Donald Trump. And it was an extraordinary speech,” Swan said, referring to a February 13, 2021, speech from McConnell.
“You spoke very powerfully against the most powerful figure in the party, the president. And you said Donald Trump’s actions preceding the January 6 insurrection were a — quote — disgraceful dereliction of duty and that he was practically morally responsible, your words, for provoking the events of that day,” Swan added. “How do you go from saying that to two weeks later saying you’d absolutely support Donald Trump if he’s the Republican nominee in 2024?”
McConnell responded that as the Senate GOP leader it should not be “a front-page headline” that he would support the Republican nominee.
“I think I have an obligation to support the nominee of my party,” McConnell said. “That will mean that whoever the nominee is has gone out and earned the nomination.”
“It’s not at all inconsistent. I stand by everything I said about January 6 and everything on February 13,” McConnell added.
“I don’t get to pick the Republican nominee for president. They’re elected by the Republican voters all over the country,” he said.
Swan said Rep. Liz Cheney appeared to hold a similar view to McConnell on Trump’s responsibility for the January 6 riot but noted that, unlike McConnell, Cheney thought there were “some things more important than party loyalty.”
“I’m actually trying to understand. Is there any threshold for you?” Swan pressed.
“You know, I say many things I’m sure people don’t understand,” said McConnell.
McConnell saying that he would back Trump if the former president were to become the GOP’s 2024 nominee comes after months of the latter berating, criticizing, and mocking him.
In November, Trump hit out at McConnell several times. That month, the former president slammed McConnell for backing President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill, calling him a “RINOs,” an acronym for Republican In Name Only. He also gave McConnell the moniker “Old Crow,” and accused him of “jeopardizing” other Republican senators’ reelection chances.
In January, he called McConnell a “loser” for defending GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, who contradicted Trump’s vote fraud claims.
And in February, Trump said McConnell did not speak for the Republican Party or the “vast majority of its voters.” That month, Trump also asked Sen. Rick Scott to challenge McConnell for Senate GOP leader, adding to the long-standing rift between the two. This was after McConnell seemingly shrugged off rumors that Trump may attempt to oust him as majority leader if the GOP were to take the Senate in the midterms.
McConnell has also publicly broken with Trump. In February, he said he would not be in favor of shortening any of the January 6 rioters’ sentences after Trump floated the possibility of pardoning the Capitol rioters at a rally. The New York Times also reported in February that McConnell was quietly working behind the scenes to try to ensure “goofballs” backed by Trump did not win their Senate primaries.
Trump has heavily hinted at a 2024 run but has not formally announced his campaign.