Trump threatens McConnell

Trump threatens McConnell
© Greg Nash

President Trump on Thursday appeared to threaten Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.), suggesting the senator might consider stepping down if he can’t pass Trump’s legislative agenda.

If McConnell cannot repeal and replace ObamaCare, pass an overhaul of the tax code and approve a new infrastructure package, Trump said, “you can ask me the question” if the Kentucky Republican should remain Senate leader.

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“If he doesn’t get repeal and replace done, and if he doesn’t get taxes done — meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done — infrastructure — if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question,” the president told reporters at his New Jersey golf club. 

Asked to clarify his comments, Trump said, “Ask me that question. Let’s hope he gets it done.”

The president is escalating his war of words with McConnell, a dangerous gambit with a top Republican ahead of a critical fall legislative session.

Trump fired back at the Senate Republican leader over his claims that the president had “excessive expectations” about advancing his agenda through Congress.

The White House acknowledged earlier Thursday the president’s days-long Twitter tirade against McConnell is a result of his “frustration” with the top senator over the lack of progress on his agenda.

McConnell has long been a target of conservatives’ ire, which has ramped up in the aftermath of the Senate’s failure to repeal former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMcCarthy: ‘No deadline on DACA’ Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration Trump’s first year in office was the year of the woman MORE’s signature healthcare law. 

They were particularly angered after the Kentucky Republican pointed a finger at Trump, criticizing him for setting “artificial deadlines” in the healthcare push.

“Now our new president has of course not been in this line of work before. And I think had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process,” the Senate leader said during a speech in Kentucky. 

After playing those comments on air, conservative radio host Mark Levin called the Kentucky Republican a “failure” and a “dummy.”

“It’s not a matter of setting early timelines. ... You’re the Republican leader, you have 52, you couldn’t get 51. That’s your failure as the so-called leader of the Republicans in the Senate,” he said.

Fox News host Sean Hannity also piled on, calling McConnell “weak” and “spineless” and urging the 75-year-old senator to retire.

McConnell has also been targeted by two right-wing candidates in the Alabama Republican Senate primary: Roy Moore and Rep. Mo BrooksMorris (Mo) Jackson BrooksGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Kermit the Frog, Ellen Degeneres among write-ins in Alabama special election Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks reveals he has prostate cancer MORE.

A McConnell spokesman declined to weigh in on the president's comment Thursday, saying the president was responding to a hypothetical rather than levying an attack on the Senate leader.

This story was updated at 3:47 p.m.