The New York Times is reporting that the relationship between President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has completely fallen apart—they haven’t spoken to each other in weeks. It’s gotten so bad that McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.
McConnell and Trump simply don’t like one another—their relationship has waffled between mutual resentment and outright hostility. A complicating factor is that McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, holds a seat in Trump’s cabinet. The Times says, “Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.”
In a series of tweets this month, Trump criticized McConnell publicly, then berated him in a phone call on August 9 that ended with both men cursing at one another in a screaming match.
In the call, Trump accused McConnell of bungling the healthcare issue, and became irate about what he suggested was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Publicly, McConnell has questioned Trump’s understanding of the presidency; privately, he’s described Trump as being entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing. Also in private, McConnell expressed horror to his advisors last week after Trump equated white supremacists in Charlottesville with the protesters who rallied against them.
Trump has also continued to badger and threaten McConnell’s Senate colleagues, including Sen, Jeff Flake of Arizona, whose Republican primary challenger, Kelli Ward, has been described a fringe-dwelling conspiracy theorist. Trump openly supports Ward.
For the moment, McConnell appears to be far more secure in his position than Trump is, and may be immune to coercion from the White House. It’s not likely that Republicans will lose control of the Senate in 2018, and Trump has no allies in the Senate who have shown an appetite for combat with McConnell. On the other hand, if Trump keeps attacking Republican senators with whom he is feuding, he may actually make them lose their seats to a Democrat—and that’s the fastest route to impeachment for the president.
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