Donald Trump Trashes Mitch McConnell, but Their Relationship Worked Both Ways

In Donald Trump's scathing takedown of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) the former president harked to how he felt his prior support boosted his once ally—though overlooked how this relationship worked the other way.

The pair have clashed in recent times with Trump angered by McConnell's acceptance of Joe Biden's presidential election victory coming while he was still pushing against it, and in recent days the Senator also somewhat broke line with the former president following his second impeachment trial.

While McConnell voted to acquit, he spoke this coming down to thinking the trial was unconstitutional due to Trump having left office.

McConnell said he thought Trump was "practically and morally responsible for provoking the events" of January 6, even alluding to the possibility of punishment through other legal means.

Following this came Trump's harsh critique of the senator, in which he branded him a "a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack" and claimed credit for McConnell's victory in retaining his Kentucky Senate seat after endorsing him then.

But while he outlined how he felt McConnell benefitted from is support, how the relationship worked to benefit Trump in turn was absent in his comments.

"The relationship between McConnell and Trump was absolutely mutually beneficial and played to each other's strengths," David Andersen, assistant professor in U.S. politics at Durham University, told Newsweek.

"For four years Trump stayed in the spotlight and McConnell governed. Trump took the credit and McConnell took pride in accomplishment. McConnell provided the opportunity for Trump to brag about accomplishing things, without Trump actually having to be the force behind those actions."

On points that McConnell facilitated, Andersen pointed to the appointment of conservative judges throughout the judiciary and also to tax cuts.

Julie Norman, a lecturer in politics and international relations at University College London, also referenced these points and supported the notion that while McConnell may have benefitted from Trump's support he also aided the former president during his term in the White House.

"McConnell was a consistent enabler for Trump, while also facilitating a conservative legislative agenda that kept Trump in a positive light for many in the party, including confirming over 200 conservative judges and pushing through the tax cut. In doing so, he made it possible for Trump to claim victories while also keeping the Republican party relatively unified both on Capitol Hill and among voters," Norman told Newsweek.

"Not all of this was without self interest of course; Trump's backing helped McConnell electorally as well. But overall, the successes that Trump can claim during his presidency are largely due to McConnell shepherding through a conservative agenda and keeping the party intact."

Scott Lucas, emeritus professor of U.S. politics at the University of Birmingham, told Newsweek: "They [Trump and McConnell] used each other. It was a co-dependent relationship."

On Trump's comments that he boosted McConnell in his race, Lucas disputed this and said it would have been likely he would have won there as the Republican candidate regardless of the former president's endorsement.

In terms of their relationship, Lucas added: "Mitch McConnell knows the rules and he knows how to play by the rules.

"Trump kept breaking the rules and McConnell protected him."

Lucas also suggested McConnell had previous opportunities to "clip Trump's wings," referring to the first impeachment and the Government shutdowns in the former commander-in-chief's tenure as points where he felt the senator shielded him.

He also referenced the second impeachment trial and suggested had the Senator chosen to vote against Trump this could have led to enough other Republicans to do so to have seen him convicted.

Lucas said McConnell has had to weigh up the support Trump does have in his decision-making—both from voters and with certain lawmakers in the GOP.

This comes amid infighting in the Republican Party over the direction it will take following Trump's defeat.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who has regularly been a Trump ally and said he would tell McConnell the GOP needed his help to win back a Senate majority, also highlighted how the pair worked together in defense of the Senate minority leader.

"Mitch McConnell was indispensable to Donald Trump's success," he said, speaking on Fox News.

"Mitch McConnell got the tax cut through, a massive tax cut, with a two vote Republican majority. Mitch McConnell is much to credit for Amy Coney Barrett as any single person.

"Mitch McConnell working with Donald Trump did a hell of a job."

Graham said he was "more worried about 2022 than I've ever been," adding: "I don't want to eat our own." He said "we need to knock this off," in regard to the rift.

Trump has said he would back a challenger aligned to his values against McConnell. He has also spoken of further political plans following his acquittal.

Newsweek has contacted McConnell's office and the Office of the Former President for comment.

donald trump and mitch mcconnell composite photo
This combination of pictures created on February 16, 2021 shows US President Donald Trump in Washington, DC, October 27, 2020 and US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on February 5, 2020. Trump recently issued a cutting statement targeting McConnell. Saul Loeb, Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images