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 McConnellThe Mueller report is a deterrent to government service Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Anti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age MORE (R-Ky.) has urged Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone 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 SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersThe biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone GOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Warren unveils plan to cancel student loan debt, create universal free college MORE's presidential campaign.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDurbin calls Mueller report findings on Trump team 'troubling' Congress opens door to fraught immigration talks McConnell: 'Past time' for immigration-border security deal 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 RyanAppeals court rules House chaplain can reject secular prayers FEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday 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 SessionsAnd the winner of the Robert Mueller Sweepstakes is — Vladimir Putin The Memo: Mueller's depictions will fuel Trump angst Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump 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.