06 March 2024

McConnell endorses Trump despite ‘disgraceful’ acts in Capitol attack

06 March 2024

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has endorsed Donald Trump for president in a remarkable turnaround for a politician who blamed the then-president for “disgraceful” acts in the January 6 2021 Capitol attack.

Mr McConnell, who was the last Republican leader in Congress to back Mr Trump, declared his support in a short statement after Super Tuesday wins pushed the front-runner closer to the party nomination.

The two men had not spoken since 2020 when Mr McConnell declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner of the that year’s presidential election but more recently their teams had reopened talks about an endorsement.

“It is abundantly clear that former president Trump has earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee for President of the United States,” Mr McConnell said in the statement.

He said: “It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support.”

Mr McConnell criticised Mr Trump as “morally responsible” for the 2021 mob siege of the Capitol.

It comes after Mr McConnell made his own sudden announcement last week that he would step down after this term as leader, a position he has held longer than any other senator, and as he tries one more time to win back Republican control of the Senate.

Mr McConnell, of Kentucky, said he and Mr Trump “worked together to accomplish great things for the American people”.

While Mr McConnell said early in the election cycle he would support the eventual Republican presidential nominee, his endorsement of Mr Trump is a striking reunion for the two men, who have put political interests ahead of any personal displeasure with one another.

Mr Trump routinely bashed Mr McConnell as an “Old Crow” in public, and Mr Trump hurled racist insults at the senator’s wife, Elaine Chao, who served as Mr Trump’s transportation secretary and stepped down in the aftermath of the January 6 attack — which Mr McConnell labelled an insurrection.

We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation, and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one

With Mr McConnell’s endorsement of Mr Trump, it gives the green light to other remaining sceptical Republicans — and the deep-pocketed donors who fuel campaigns — to fall in line despite any reservations they may have about a return to the Trump era.

After the January 6 attack of the Capitol, Mr McConnell issued a grave rebuke of Mr Trump’s behaviour, blaming the defeated president for spreading “wild” claims of a stolen election.

While Mr McConnell refused to convict Mr Trump in the Senate trial on House impeachment charges of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol, which could have left him ineligible to serve again as president, he warned that Mr Trump was not immune from civil or criminal prosecution once he left the White House.

“He didn’t get away with anything yet — yet,” Mr McConnell said in the Senate at the time.

“We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation, and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one,” he said.

Mr Trump has been indicted on federal charges of conspiring to defraud Americans and obstruct an official proceeding in his efforts to overturn Mr Biden’s victory and the January 6 attack, but he has claimed immunity in a challenge that is now before the Supreme Court.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox