White House acknowledges 'frustration' with McConnell

President Trump’s top spokesman on Thursday did nothing to downplay his public spat with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE, saying “there some frustration” with the Kentucky Republican. 

“You can see the president’s tweets. Obviously there’s some frustration. I don’t have anything more to add,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters in New Jersey, where Trump is vacationing for 17 days.


The comments came after Trump fired back at McConnell for saying the president had “excessive expectations” about advancing his agenda through Congress.

“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don't think so. After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?” the president tweeted Wednesday. 

He followed Thursday morning by expressing disbelief in McConnell’s inability to pass a healthcare bill through the Republican-controlled Senate. 

“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn't get it done,” Trump tweeted.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump said: "Mitch, get back to work and put Repeal & Replace, Tax Reform & Cuts and a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing." 

"You can do it!"

Sanders confirmed that Trump and McConnell spoke by phone Wednesday before the president fired off his tweets. “I’m not aware of how long. Healthcare was certainly discussed,” she said. 

Trump’s remarkable criticism of McConnell is a sign of the growing intraparty rift between the White House and Capitol Hill that could endanger the Republicans' shared agenda in the fall. 

The tensions burst into public view several days ago, when McConnell criticized Trump 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. 

“And so, part of the reason I think people feel like we’re underperforming is because too many artificial deadlines unrelated to the reality and the complexity of legislature may not have been fully understood,” he added.

GOP analysts and media commentators alike have questioned the wisdom of Trump’s public attacks on McConnell, who will be responsible for moving much of his agenda this fall.

The White House has also flirted with backing primary challengers to GOP Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeBiden eyeing Cindy McCain for UK ambassador position: report Profiles in cowardice: Trump's Senate enablers McSally concedes Arizona Senate race MORE (Ariz.) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (Nev.).

This is likely to disappoint McConnell, as primary attacks on GOP incumbents risk losing Republican seats in the 2018 midterms. 

- This story was updated at 1:46 p.m.