Mitch McConnell Says Barack Obama Is 'Classless' for Criticizing Trump Administration

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said former President Barack Obama "should've kept his mouth shut" and labeled his recent comments about the Trump administration "classless."

In an audio recording of a recent call between Obama and a group for former members of his administration, first reported by Yahoo News, the 44th president described the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic "an absolute chaotic disaster."

Obama also said he is worried that the "rule of law is at risk" in America when talking about the Department of Justice's move to dismiss the charge of lying to the FBI against General Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, who had pleaded guilty.

"You know, generally, former presidents just don't do that," McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, told the current president's daughter-in-law Lara Trump during an interview streamed live on Monday night by the campaign.

"I remember President George W. Bush and his father went right through eight years of Democratic administrations after they left office and kept their mouths shut because they didn't feel it was appropriate for former presidents to critique even the president of another party.

"So I think President Obama should've kept his mouth shut. We know he doesn't like much this administration is doing. That's understandable. But I think it's a little bit classless, frankly, to critique an administration that comes after you."

McConnell added: "You had your shot. You were there for eight years. I think the tradition that the Bushes set up of not critiquing the president that comes after you is a good tradition."

Newsweek has asked Obama's office for comment.

Obama, who will campaign for his former Vice President Joe Biden in 2020, said on the call: "This election that's coming up on every level is so important because what we're going to be battling is not just a particular individual or a political party.

"What we're fighting against is these long-term trends in which being selfish, being tribal, being divided, and seeing others as an enemy—that has become a stronger impulse in American life.

"And by the way, we're seeing that internationally as well. It's part of the reason why the response to this global crisis has been so anemic and spotty. It would have been bad even with the best of governments.

"It has been an absolute chaotic disaster when that mindset—of 'what's in it for me' and 'to heck with everybody else'—when that mindset is operationalized in our government."

Obama also said of Flynn that the retired three star general was "just getting off scot-free" after lying to the FBI, which had "no precedent."

"That's the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic—not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we've seen in other places," Obama said.

Trump recently turned up his attacks on Obama, accusing him of running the "most corrupt administration in U.S. history" and describing what he calls "Obamagate" as making the Watergate scandal "look small time."

It is a reference to the opening of the FBI's Russia investigation at the end of Obama's second term when the intelligence community began to explore the Kremlin's efforts to influence the 2016 election in Trump's favor. Trump claims the investigation was politically-motivated.

At a White House press conference on Monday, a Washington Post reporter asked Trump what crime he was referring to in his recent allegation on Twitter that Obama had committed "the biggest political crime in American history by far."

"Obamagate," Trump replied. "It's been going on for a long time. It's been going on from before I even got elected and it's a disgrace that it happened...You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours."

Mitch McConnell Obama Trump
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters following a Senate Republican policy luncheon in the Hart Senate Office Building, May 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Drew Angerer/Getty Images