Trump-McConnell feud threatens Republicans' path to power

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 file photo, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., stand with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., as Trump speaks while departing after a Senate Republican Policy luncheon, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Republican Party still belongs to Donald Trump. The GOP privately flirted with purging the norm-shattering former president after he incited a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol last month. But in the end, only seven of 50 Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump in his historic second impeachment trial on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON – Former President Donald Trump is escalating a political war within his own party that could undermine the Republican push to fight President Joe Biden's agenda and ultimately return the party to power.

A day after blistering Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, as a “dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack,” Trump repeated his baseless claim on Wednesday that he was the rightful winner of the November election in a series of interviews with conservative outlets after nearly a month of self-imposed silence.

Trump continued to attack McConnell, accusing the Senate GOP leader of failing to stand up for Republicans after McConnell blasted Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot despite voting to acquit the former president at his second impeachment trial.

“The Republicans are soft. They only hit their own, like Mitch,” Trump complained on Newsmax. “If they spent the same time hitting (Senate Democratic leader Chuck) Schumer and (President Joe) Biden, the Republicans would be much better off, that I can tell you."

Republican officials in several battlegrounds carried by Biden, including Georgia and Arizona, have said the vote was fair. Trump's legal claims surrounding the vote were rejected by judges across the political spectrum, including many appointed by the former president. McConnell himself described Trump's contention as an “unhinged falsehood.”

Leading GOP strategists described the exploding feud between the Republican former president and the Senate's most powerful Republican as, at best, a distraction and, at worst, a direct threat to the party's path to the House and Senate majorities in next year's midterms.

“I don’t think he cares about winning," Steven Law, a McConnell ally who leads the most powerful Republican-aligned super PAC in Washington, said of Trump. "He just wants it to be about himself.”

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, likened Trump’s insults to “food fights within the family” that hurt the Republican party’s goals. Thune voted to acquit Trump, but called his falsehood that the election was stolen “inexcusable.”