WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he would “absolutely” support Donald Trump if he were the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2024.
His remarks, in a Fox News interview, marked an about-face from less than two weeks ago, when he delivered an impassioned speech from the Senate floor in which he held Trump “practically and morally responsible” for the mob that attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6.
McConnell and other Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, have suggested that it was time for the party to move on and find new leaders despite polls showing that most Republicans remain attached to the former president.
Yet the party is also keen to cast aside the notion that it’s engulfed in a civil war as it confronts the new Biden administration and prepares for the 2022 elections.
“The Republican Party is actually in very good shape,” McConnell said in the Fox interview. “We gained seats in the House, we elected 50 Republican senators when everybody was predicting we were going to lose the Senate. The Democrats didn’t flip a single state legislature, we flipped two, picked up a governor.”
The Republicans did lose control of the Senate, but it remains divided 50-50.
McConnell dismissed reports of party discord and said President Joe Biden “has made it quite easy for us to get together.”
On Feb. 13, McConnell voted to acquit Trump on charges of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, but just minutes later condemned him in the floor speech. “The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things,” he said.
Trump fired back days later with a sarcastic response, mocking McConnell as “a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack” and warned senators who remained loyal to their leader “will not win again.”
When Trump was president, McConnell was his chief ally in shepherding the 2017 tax law and filling the federal judiciary with Trump’s nominees. But the two men had an uneasy relationship that McConnell managed by rarely engaging Trump publicly, making his floor speech all the more extraordinary.
McConnell is not attending this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in which Trump will be the star attraction.
John Harney and Steven T. Dennis, Bloomberg News