Timeline: The Trump and McConnell feud

Timeline: The Trump and McConnell feud
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOn The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Graham's COVID-19 'breakthrough' case jolts Senate McConnell warns Democrats against 'artificial timeline' for infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.) and President Trump’s White House are doing damage control, disputing reports of a growing rift between the two men.

The comments — which stress that the Senate GOP leader and the president have a shared agenda — come after weeks of rhetorical barbs and signs of frustration from both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. 

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation," McConnell said in a statement on Wednesday.


Trump has spent the August recess firing warning shots at Capitol Hill and openly criticizing McConnell. Then on Tuesday, The New York Times reported that McConnell had growing doubts that Trump could salvage his presidency.

The back-and-forth comes as Republicans have struggled to score legislative victories. They are poised to return to Washington in September, where they’ll need to work with the White House to avoid a government shutdown, raise the debt ceiling and get one of their biggest priorities, tax reform, off the ground.

Here’s a look at what McConnell and Trump have said about each other over the August recess.

Aug. 7: McConnell cites Trump’s “excessive expectations”

McConnell drew the president’s ire when he told a local Rotary Club that the president’s “excessive expectations” were partly to blame for the narrative that Republicans haven’t accomplished anything.

“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,” he said.

McConnell added there were “too many artificial deadlines" that were “unrelated to the reality of the complexity of legislating.”

Aug. 9: Trump, McConnell talk on the phone 

Trump and McConnell had a heated conversation before Trump took his frustration public.

The conversation turned into a “profane shouting match,” according to The New York Times. Sources familiar with the call separately told CNN that both men shouted and Trump “cursed at the majority leader.”

In addition to the failed healthcare vote, Trump also reportedly grilled McConnell on why he wasn’t doing more to shield him from the congressional investigations into Russia's election meddling and potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

A spokesman for McConnell said on Wednesday that he wasn't aware of any other calls since Aug. 9, but noted lawmakers were out of town for an annual August break.

"That’s not terribly unusual during a recess. Staff and others have been in daily contact. The Treasury Secretary [Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Biden rallies Senate Dems behind mammoth spending plan Mnuchin dodges CNBC questions on whether Trump lying over election Democrats justified in filibustering GOP, says Schumer MORE] was with the leader in Louisville on Monday, etc," the aide said. 

Aug. 9: Trump rips McConnell

Trump publicly fired back at McConnell after their phone call, questioning why Republicans had failed to nix the Affordable Care Act. 

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

The rhetorical back-and-forth brought long-simmering tensions between congressional leadership and the president to the forefront.

It’s unclear how Trump became aware of McConnell’s criticism. But Sean Hannity and Mark Levin — two prominent conservative pundits — and White House aide Dan Scavino Jr. knocked the GOP senator on Twitter ahead of the president’s tweet.

Aug. 10: Trump doubles down

The next day, Trump and the White House escalated the bombardment.

Trump appeared to threaten McConnell's job as Senate GOP leader, leaving the door open to the Kentucky Republican stepping down.

“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.

Trump separately targeted McConnell in a pair of tweets, urging him to “get back to work.” And press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders acknowledged that “obviously there’s some frustration.”

Trump’s remarks sparked a wave of support from GOP senators for McConnell.

Aug. 16: McConnell says ‘there are no good neo-Nazis’

McConnell pushed back against Trump’s rhetoric about the deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., saying “there are no good neo-Nazis.” 

“We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms," the Senate GOP leader said.

McConnell didn’t mention the president by name in his statement. But his comments appeared to be a direct rebuke of Trump’s insistence during a press conference from Trump Tower that both the “alt-left” and white nationalist groups were to blame for the violence and that there were “very fine people” on both sides.

Aug. 21: McConnell defends the media

McConnell subtly split with Trump during a Chamber of Commerce event in Kentucky, defending the media hours after the president lashed out over “fake news.”

"My view is that most news is not fake, but I do try to look at a variety of sources," McConnell said when asked what publications he reads amid "accusations and counter accusations about fake news."

McConnell didn't mention, and wasn't asked about, the president or his frequent criticism of the media. But his comments highlighted the divisions between the GOP senator and the president.

Aug. 22: McConnell questions if Trump can save presidency

The New York Times published a remarkable story that stated McConnell is privately questioning whether Trump can succeed after a summer full of controversies.

People who have spoken to McConnell told The Times that the GOP senator, known for being publicly tight lipped, is voicing skepticism about Trump’s willingness to learn how to govern and his ability to lead the party into the 2018 midterm elections.

Aug. 23: Trump: GOP ‘wasting time’ if they don’t nix filibuster

President Trump revived his argument that Senate Republicans should get rid of the legislative filibuster.

"If Republican Senate doesn't get rid of the Filibuster Rule & go to a simple majority, which the Dems would do, they are just wasting time!" Trump tweeted.

But GOP senators have made clear they aren’t onboard with ending the filibuster, fearing what would happen when Democrats are again in the majority.

McConnell shot down a similar request from Trump earlier this month, saying “there are not the votes in the Senate … to change the rules.”

Aug. 23: McConnell: Trump and I have shared agenda  

McConnell pushed back against reports of a rift between himself and the president, saying the two have a shared agenda including tax reform, fixing healthcare, funding the government and defense policy.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, and we are committed to advancing our shared agenda together and anyone who suggests otherwise is clearly not part of the conversation," McConnell said in a statement.

He added that “the president and I, and our teams, have been and continue to be in regular contact about our shared goals.”

The White House issued its own statement declaring that Trump and McConnell “remain united on many shared priorities, including middle class tax relief, strengthening the military, constructing a southern border wall, and other important issues.”

“They will hold previously scheduled meetings following the August recess to discuss these critical items with members of the congressional leadership and the President’s Cabinet. White House and leadership staff are coordinating regarding the details of those meetings.”

August 24: Trump knocks McConnell over ObamaCare, debt ceiling

Less than 24 hours after McConnell and the White House tried to pivot, Trump took to Twitter to knock the Kentucky Republican over ObamaCare and debt ceiling strategy.

"The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed!That should NEVER have happened!" the president tweeted.

He also blamed McConnell and House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer MORE (R-Wis.) for the debt ceiling "mess." Trump said he asked them to tie the vote to a Veterans Affairs bill, but they didn't.

McConnell and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin both said during a joint appearance in Kentucky earlier this week that Congress would raise the debt ceiling.

- Updated at 10:50 a.m. EST