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Donald Trump targets Mitch McConnell in a high stakes battle for control of the GOP

Donald Trump targets Mitch McConnell in a high stakes battle for control of the GOP

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The Republican Party has reached the “eat your own” stage of its rapid decline from power.

Just 5 years ago, the GOP was riding high with complete control of both the legislative and executive branches of government and was poised to stuff the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues at the first available opportunity.

And, while the party managed to achieve its judicial aims with the untimely death just a year ago of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and did hold together long enough to pass a tax cut for its billionaire donors, it has since managed to lose both the White House and control of both branches of Congress to Democrats after Donald Trump’s spectacularly incompetent and corrupt run as president.

All that defeat cries out for a scapegoat and, while any sane person would believe that Trump himself is the most deserving of that role, the twice-impeached former president somehow still retains enough of a hold on the rapidly diminishing Republican Party as to make a credible bid to dump the blame on the man he felt was insufficiently supportive of his attempt to stage a coup through his mobilization of the worst elements of his MAGA base: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY),

The Wall Street Journal is reporting today that Trump has been contacting GOP senators and other political allies in an attempt to depose McConnell from his long-standing perch as the Republican Senate leader by seeking someone to mount a challenge to his heretofore secure position.

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According to the newspaper:

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“There is little appetite among Senate Republicans for such a plan, lawmakers and aides said, but the discussions risk driving a wedge deeper between the most influential figure in the Republican Party and its highest-ranking member in elected office.”

One could easily see that this day was inevitable once Senator McConnell concluded his shameful defense of the ex-president’s second impeachment trial with a surprising denunciation of the actions he just had insisted hadn’t risen to the level of an impeachable offense.

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“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said in a speech from the Senate floor.

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” he later continued.

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McConnell has had to balance his obvious dislike of a president whom insiders say he hopes to never have to speak to again with his desire for the GOP to regain power, but policy differences are making his high-wire act increasingly difficult.

McConnell joined 18 fellow Senate Republicans in helping to pass President Biden’s trillion-dollar infrastructure initiative, while Trump — for whom “infrastructure week” became one of the hoariest jokes for late-night comedians to ridicule him with — opposed the compromise bill which he said “makes the Republicans look weak, foolish, and dumb.”

While many people would say that’s just truth in advertising, the divisiveness in the party is dangerous at a time when the party is eying a comeback in the 2022 midterms.

Trump has refused to comment on whether he has been actively recruiting challengers to take McConnell out in the Senate party leader role, but has made no secret of the fact that he wants the GOP to oust the Kentucky senator.

“They ought to,” he said. “I think he’s very bad for the Republican Party.”

While most Democrats would see that statement as the pot calling the kettle black, they are likely reveling in the infighting in the GOP at such a crucial time in the ongoing political battle for the future of our nation.

So far, The Wall Street Journal has found little appetite, even among the most Trumpian Republican Senators who benefited from the former president’s endorsement in past elections, for removing McConnell from his leadership position.

“Naw, I’m not going to get in that fight,” Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) told the newspaper.

Although he is one of Mr. Trump’s staunchest allies in the Senate, Tuberville insisted that Senator McConnell “is doing a good job.”

Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) was even blunter in his assessment, calling Trump’s odds of demoting McConnell as likely as a donkey learning how to fly.

“I just don’t realistically see that happening,” Senator Kennedy said with an understated, dry wit.

As Trump wrestles with the slightly less insane faction of his party, the biggest question that remains is what will happen to the party if — or, more likely, when — Trump is indicted for the multiple offenses for which he is currently under investigation.

In the meantime, the fractious state of the Republican Party can only help President Biden and the Democratic Party as they seek to expand their majority beyond the razor-thin margins they currently enjoy.

Fight on, boys, fight on!

Follow Vinnie Longobardo on Twitter. 

Original reporting by Michael C. Bender and Lindsay Wise at The Wall Street Journal.

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