McConnell refrains from commenting on Trump indictment
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and several other Republican lawmakers remained tight lipped on Tuesday as former President Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts, signaling how far they have diverged from their former ally.
Several Republican senators blame Trump for their failure to gain a majority in the Senate.
McConnell, who hasn’t spoken to Trump since December of 2020, didn’t release any statement in relation to Trump’s arrest on Tuesday. He also didn’t release a statement when it was announced that Trump would be indicted.
Instead, he put out a statement welcoming Finland’s accession to NATO, something he has touted since last year.
Al Cross, a professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky and a longtime commentator on McConnell’s career, said McConnell doesn’t feel the same pressure as other Republicans to rally around Trump.
“Mitch McConnell does not feel pressure in the same way that other human beings do. He has steeled himself to resist the typical politician’s urge to talk and it’s paid off for him, you don’t get in trouble for something you didn’t say,” he said. “His strategy with Trump has been to not come close to that kryptonite and let other people do the talking and work behind the scenes.”
Cross speculated that McConnell doesn’t want to put himself out on a limb by defending Trump when the former president is facing additional possible indictments.
“There will be other shoes to drop and I expect Mitch McConnell knows more about Donald Trump’s situation than we do,” he added. “He is one of the most influential and best-informed people in the country and has all kinds of sources of information and he probably sees other things coming.”
Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who has advised McConnell’s past campaigns, noted the Senate GOP leader is sticking to his strategy of staying clear of Trump, who has attacked him repeatedly over the past two years.
“He’s sort of not mentioned Trump at all since December of 2020. He’s pretty much taken a I’m-going-to-ignore-this-guy approach. So, I think this is just a continuation of that,” he said.
“All of this circus today reinforces a larger dynamic — the American people want anything but a Trump/Biden rematch in ’24,” he added.
McConnell is trying to lessen the former president’s political influence in GOP politics.
He told reporters in February that “we’re focusing now to try to get the very most electable candidate[s] nominated” in West Virginia, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
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