Tensions between President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have escalated dramatically recently, to the point that the two haven’t spoken with each other in weeks, according to a New York Times report on Tuesday.
The once-private feud between the two Republicans has spilled out into the open in the wake of several controversial moves by Trump this summer that may threaten the GOP agenda when Congress heads back to Washington in September.
The Times cites Trump’s public criticism of McConnell this month after Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed in July as a critical moment in the deterioration of their relationship. In a series of tweets, Trump pinned the blame on McConnell.
“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done. Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!” Trump tweeted on August 10.
Later, Trump reportedly berated the majority leader in a profane phone call, venting about McConnell’s refusal to protect Trump from investigations into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. Sources told CNN’s Manu Raju that Trump also vented about a bill that limited his ability to ease sanctions against Russia on his own.
McConnell has seethed to aides and coworkers about Trump’s attacks on fellow Senate Republicans, such as Dean Heller of Nevada and Jeff Flake of Arizona, The Times reported.
And last week, when Trump gave a stunning defence of what he called “very fine people” who marched alongside white supremacists during a violent weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, The Times said McConnell “expressed horror” to advisers, and told business leaders who resigned from a Trump advisory board that he understood their decision.
Some Republicans fear that Trump’s hardball tactics with those in his own party could spell doom for his presidency. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, for one, said this week it was “too difficult to say” if Trump would be the GOP nominee in 2020. McConnell has also told aides he wasn’t sure if Trump will be in a position to lead the party ahead of next year’s midterm elections.
Bill Piper, McConnell’s former chief of staff, described the stakes more bluntly:
“The quickest way for him to get impeached is for Trump to knock off Jeff Flake and Dean Heller and be faced with a Democrat-led Senate,” he told The Times.