McConnell urges Trump to condemn violence at rallies

McConnell urges Trump to condemn violence at rallies
© Haiyun Jiang

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance Five takeaways from a bracing day of Jan. 6 testimony McCarthy, McConnell say they didn't watch Jan. 6 hearing MORE (R-Ky.) has urged Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE to condemn the violence that has erupted at his rallies.

"I mentioned to him that I thought it would be a good idea for him no matter who starts these violent episodes to condemn it," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday.

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McConnell spoke just hours after Trump called him as part of the candidate's effort to win backing from the Republican establishment and help unify the party.

His comments are a sign that the clashes between Trump supporters and protestors are worrying Senate GOP leaders. 

McConnell, when asked, declined to say what needing a reminder to condemn violence said about Trump's temperament.
 
"I thought one of the things you guys had learned is that I'm pretty good at not answering questions I don't want to answer," he told reporters.
 
 
“It’s nice McConnell said something publicly, but it should have started a long time ago,” he said.

A Trump supporter was caught on camera last week striking a black protester at a rally. Police said they arrested the man from the video.

Trump has largely downplayed the brawls, but he canceled campaign rallies over the weekend because of the likelihood of violent disruptions. He has also blamed the confrontations on organized protestors backing Bernie SandersBernie SandersWomen's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE's presidential campaign.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE (Ill.) suggested that Trump is purposely trying to stir up angry reactions from opponents through his choice of venues for rallies.

Durbin noted that the event Trump canceled Friday at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion seemed intended to provoke controversy.

“Trump picked what may be the most diverse urban campus in America,” he said, noting about 30 percent of the students are Hispanic. “Trump I don’t think was naive about that choice. He knew it was going to be a volatile environment.” 

Trump's rise has unnerved many Republicans, who believe he could cost the party at the ballot box in the fall. 

It's a particular concern for McConnell. His Senate conference is defending 24 seats, many of them in states President Obama won in his last two elections.

Trump has talked with Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) and other GOP power brokers, but McConnell, who is in many ways Trump's polar opposite in terms of personality and politics, has kept his distance.

A weak candidate at the top of the GOP ticket could hurt the party in the fall elections and cost McConnell his job as majority leader. 

Only one GOP senator is backing Trump for president, Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE (R-Ala.). 

Trump is competing Tuesday in primaries in Ohio, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri. 

Victories in winner-take-all Florida and Ohio would greatly increase the likelihood that he will win the party's nomination. Trump is a huge favorite to win Florida's 99 delegates. In Ohio, he is in a tight race with the state's governor, John Kasich. 

Even with a loss in Ohio, Trump will remain the favorite to become the party's standard-bearer, though it's possible a final decision on that won't be made until the Republican National Convention this July in Cleveland.