Trump ready to make McConnell's life miserable

Allies of former President TrumpDonald TrumpGuardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa wins GOP primary in NYC mayor's race Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump Schumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster MORE say he’s determined to make life miserable for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate GOP blocks voting rights bill Schumer, McConnell spar as GOP prepares to block voting bill Trump has 'zero desire' to be Speaker, spokesman says MORE (R-Ky.).

Trump’s political machine, which has $60 million in a super PAC and an unmatched grass-roots fundraising apparatus, is vowing to go aggressively after GOP lawmakers in primaries in the wake of an unprecedented feud between the nation’s two most powerful Republicans.

Trump was prepared to give McConnell a pass, sources in his orbit stated, after he gave a blistering post-impeachment floor speech saying the former president was “practically and morally” responsible for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol that led to five deaths and the evacuation of Congress.


But McConnell’s follow-up op-ed knocking Trump in The Wall Street Journal was the final straw, provoking a blistering response in which the former president insulted McConnell and his family and threatened to back primary challengers against GOP incumbents.

“Our goal is to win back the House and Senate,” said Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump. “We’ll be looking at open seats, Democratic-held seats, and maybe there are places where we look for upgrades and more MAGA-friendly voices. I have no idea why McConnell decided to lash out at the president this way, but when you do, you can expect to get hit back.”

Trump and his team do not have a list of GOP targets yet and are only in the early stages of sketching out a plan.

But Trump’s allies say McConnell has unquestionably made life much more difficult for many in his caucus. They say that in addition to anti-Trump lawmakers, some longstanding members that might not have had a primary opponent are more likely to draw challengers now.

“What he’s done has made it more likely that members of his caucus will get primary challenges and he's undoubtedly made [Sen.] Rick Scott's job at the NRSC [National Republican Senatorial Committee] much more difficult,” said one GOP consultant. “It’s a clear case of Leader McConnell putting his petty personal feud with Donald Trump ahead of the well-being of his Republican members in the Senate and it’s unforgivable.”

Trump had a 98 percent success rate in the 2020 primary cycle, according to data kept by the FiveThirtyEight.


In addition to his super PAC, Trump is surrounded by a small team of advisers that includes the firm launched by his former White House political director, Bill StepienBill StepienTrump adds veteran organizer to help run political operations: report Trump likely to form new super PAC Trump ready to make McConnell's life miserable MORE.

Trump’s allies say they’ve learned their lesson from previous rebellions, including Stephen Bannon’s 2018 anti-establishment push, and will look for more polished candidates that can win in primaries as well as in general elections.

In addition to recruits, they believe some primary challengers will emerge organically in response to Trump’s rallying cry.

They expect Trump will use his bully pulpit to clear crowded lanes of pro-Trump primary challengers to ensure the field is not divided against the incumbent.

Pro-Trump lawmakers say they expect a battle going forward.

“If you're a never-Trumper, anti-Trump kind of person, you're going to have a tough time winning in a primary going forward — that’s just the way it is,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.).

“President Trump still is the most potent Republican force and what should be happening is ... as a party, you kind of revere and hold up your former head of your party, in this case the former president, as a standard-bearer,” Biggs said. “You don't bury them, and you don't try to diss them and all of their supporters.”

McConnell’s contempt for Trump dripped out of his floor statement less than a week ago, but the veteran GOP leader’s allies are downplaying the tension, saying they share with Trump the underlying goal of getting Republicans back in power.

They say there will be instances of overlap, where the pro-Trump and establishment candidates are one and the same. Former Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Georgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as 'weak,' 'fake Trumper' MORE (R-Ga.), who is considering running again in 2022, is an example of a candidate with crossover appeal.

And they point to McConnell’s reputation as a shrewd political tactician to dismiss Trump’s call for new leadership.

“[Trump’s] not going to teach anything to Mitch McConnell about winning,” Josh Holmes, a former adviser to McConnell, said Wednesday on Fox News. “You'll recall the Senate had majorities — big majorities — when President Trump arrived. They had a House majority as well. When he left, they had neither.”

The view of Trump and his allies is that those big majorities were built on Trump’s popularity.


Either way, McConnell has taken care to rip Trump and the mob at the Capitol, but not Trump's supporters.

In McConnell’s floor speech, he pointed out that he was not disparaging Trump’s movement, only the former president’s behavior and the behavior of those that sacked the Capitol.

The Senate GOP leader appears to be trying to shake the party loose of the fringe candidates that have had recent success, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

But Holmes acknowledged the chasm that has opened up and said it is in the party’s best interests for Trump and McConnell to be pulling in the same direction.

“The two of them working together were a great team,” Holmes said. “They're going to have to figure out how to bring those two sides of the party back together again.”

Trump and McConnell could be working against each other at a time when Republicans have designs on winning back majorities in the House and Senate.


Republicans are deeply divided heading into the midterms when they should be united behind their shared opposition to President BidenJoe BidenBaltimore police chief calls for more 'boots on the ground' to handle crime wave Biden to deliver remarks at Sen. John Warner's funeral Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump MORE’s agenda.

McConnell, who is used to having broad support from within his own caucus, has suffered some blowback for rebuking Trump, who remains enormously popular among Republican voters.

“[McConnell’s] speech I don’t think is a widely shared view of President Trump by most Republicans,” Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's Equilibrium — Presented by NextEra Energy — Tasmanian devil wipes out penguin population The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden support, gas tax questions remain on infrastructure This week: Senate set for voting rights fight MORE (R-S.C.) said Tuesday night on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.”

“They’re now at each other's throats,” he added. “I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own. Trump is the most consequential Republican in the party. If Mitch McConnell doesn’t understand that, he’s missing a lot.”

In separate cable interviews on Wednesday, Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottWhite House says Biden crime address won't undercut police reform bill Sen. Manchin paves way for a telehealth revolution Kerry Washington backs For the People Act: 'Black and Brown voters are being specifically targeted' MORE (R-S.C.) called Trump “the most powerful political figure on either side” and Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoObama land management chief says Biden nominee should withdraw over tree-spiking incident Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce Democrats facing tough reelections back bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (R-Wyo.) said the GOP must “stick together” if it hopes to have success at the ballot box.

“In this case, Leader McConnell speaks for himself,” Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs warn against sweeping reform to military justice system | Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal | National Guard may have 'training issues' if not reimbursed Senate panel plans July briefing on war authorization repeal Overnight Defense: Senate panel delays Iraq war powers repeal | Study IDs Fort Hood as least-safe base for female soldiers | Pentagon loosens some COVID-19 restrictions MORE (R-Wis.) said on the "Ross Kaminsky Show." “I don’t think he speaks for the conference ... when the leader of the Senate conference speaks, he has to understand what he says reflects on all of us, and I didn’t appreciate the comments.”


Elsewhere in the party, GOP moderates that voted to convict Trump are pleading with Republicans to move past the former president.

“I think we need to get away from the idea that the Republican Party is just one person and adherence to just one leader,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPelosi quashes reports on Jan. 6 select committee White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda MORE (R-Maine) said on WMTW in Bangor. “Instead, it’s principles, it’s fundamentals that bring us together.”

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSchumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster Murkowski to vote 'no' on voting rights bill White House advisers huddle with Senate moderates on infrastructure MORE (R-Alaska), who is up for reelection in 2022 and like Collins voted for Trump’s conviction in the impeachment trial, said the GOP is struggling to “find our center again.”

“If the Republican Party is no more than the party of a person, the party of Donald Trump and not a party of principles, that causes me to question where do I fit in that,” she told the Juneau Empire. “The Republican Party was a good party, a solid party based on solid principles I identify with. We were a good party before Donald Trump and we’ll be a good party after Donald Trump.”