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Donald Trump can no longer win. His failures are representative of some new harsh realities that no longer include the insulation of executive privilege and constitutional confusion, but his staunch supporters don’t seem to know that. Trump can’t pull the swing voters anymore, but he is sitting on piles of cash from his devoted followers and this makes him a problem for many within the Republican Party, namely Mitch McConnell.
On January 6th, shortly before a violent Trump insurgency broke into the US Capitol complex, forever upending our sense of democratic decency, then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave a powerful speech that disavowed Trump’s false claims of election fraud and something most Republicans had not done in years: stating the obvious. Joe Biden had won the election, and despite the increasing attempts by the Trump camp to incite the violent mob that day, Mitch McConnell calmly explained this from the floor of the Senate.
The election was not rigged, McConnell emphasized, logically spelling out why Trump’s fantastic tales of a stolen election were merely made up hyperbole meant to infuse the ego of a man who was yearning to be a dictator in the country that calls itself “the land of the free.” McConnell reminded the country, Republicans and Democrats alike, that numerous federal judges and state officials had clearly and openly rejected Trump’s baseless assertions that the election had been “rigged” against him.
“The voters, the courts, and the states have all spoken,” McConnell said. “If we overrule them, it would damage our republic forever.” McConnell then made a point to emphasize that not only had Trump lost this election to Biden, but he had lost big — some might say huge. McConnell declared that this last election, the one that Trump was so ardently contesting, the one that everyone living in the real world knew had been lost at the Electoral College level, was also separated by seven million popular votes.
We now know that John Eastman, Trump’s lawyer, had been circulating his six-point plan well before Jan. 6, that detailed exactly how Vice President Pence was to help Trump by overturning the election. We also know the Capitol riots that ensued once Pence made it clear that he was refusing to do Trump’s bidding, involved a crowd of Trump supporters, intent on finding Pence to make him pay for the betrayal.
While Mike Pence was hiding in the Capitol from the mob and while other prominent members of the GOP were begging Trump to make a pubic statement that would call off the attack, the then-president made a point to tweet the following:
“Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution, giving States a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!”
If Mike Pence was under siege for refusing to break the law at the request of his Commander in Chief, the scorn for Mitch McConnell, whose words were much more overt, could easily inspire a vengeful person like Donald Trump to seek retaliation.
McConnell went on to vote to acquit Trump after his second impeachment trial, but nevertheless condemned his actions outright, something Trump would have considered another overt betrayal.
McConnell again stood on the floor of the Senate and called Trump’s actions on Jan. 6th a "disgraceful dereliction of duty." After the Senate formally acquitted Trump, McConnell continued his lecture:
"There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president and having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth. He did not do his job.
He didn't take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored. No. Instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily — happily — as the chaos unfolded. Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger."
We have seen this Trump reckoning, levied by McConnell, in many courts in several jurisdictions, that not only ruled against the Trump campaign, but condemned some of the tactics used. The 2020 election proved to be a disaster for Trump with regard to his own campaign, but also for many other Republicans looking to keep their majority in Congress.
Since leaving office, Trump has maintained a position of power from his Mar-a-Lago stronghold, but his latest attacks on Mitch McConnell appear to be dead in the water. According to people familiar with the direct conversations, Trump has spoken recently with senators and allies about trying to eject McConnell from his seat and has been looking for any Republicans who are interested in serving his cause and taking on the challenge.
Apparently there are no real takers among Senate Republicans for Trump’s latest retaliatory mission, even though the very act of having these discussions could likely create a greater divide between the current operating GOP, and the version of the GOP that is lying in wait, possibly intending to launch another bid to take over the country again in 2024.
Trump declined to discuss whether he was recruiting contenders to go against McConnell in a recent interview, but he did make a point to say that he wanted Senate Republicans to oust McConnell from his position that he has been firmly entrenched in for the last 15 years. “They ought to,” Trump said when asked if McConnell should be challenged. “I think he’s very bad for the Republican Party.”
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney who is now serving a prison sentence explained to Congress during his testimony in February of 2019, that Trump does not issue orders directly. “He speaks in a code,'“ said Cohen, who also explained that most people who work for Trump understand his code and act accordingly.
While Trump does not seem to have the undying support of many Republicans in leadership who seem content to stay quiet for now and bide their time, he does have the unwavering loyalty of a majority of people who support and fund the Party. Donald Trump’s supporters have remained steadfast, which means his money supply is still a force that can’t be overlooked and one that many aspiring Republicans would like to convert to their own use once Trump does inevitably bow out of the political scene.
What this most recent rejection of Trump’s latest call to war represents is not necessarily that Trump or McConnell are firmly in control of their political party. Instead it says that the power is still up for grabs and on one side of the stand-off we have the money and the public support, but on the other side, we still have the career politicians. As we inch closer to 2024, this internal struggle will define the future control of the Republican Party, one that it is hard to imagine Donald Trump conceding while he is still alive.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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