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Trump's anti-McConnell tantrum reinforces growing GOP divisions

As the Biden era gets underway in earnest, the Republican Party is off to a schismatic start.
Image: Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on July 20, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

Following the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) helped lead the fight against Donald Trump's impeachment, though he conceded the then-president bore some "responsibility" for the violence.

Trump reportedly raged about the House GOP leader having "bowed to pressure" and failing to show unyielding loyalty. As we've discussed, McCarthy may have tried to shield Trump from accountability, but that wasn't sufficient to satisfy the needs of the sensitive former president.

A month later, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) adopted a similar approach, voting to acquit Trump at the end of his impeachment trial, while acknowledging the former president's wrongdoing. Once again, Trump was not pleased.

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday slammed former top ally Mitch McConnell as a "political hack" who "doesn't have what it takes," days after the Senate minority leader voted to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial while criticizing his "disgraceful dereliction of duty" on Jan. 6.

For those who grew accustomed to Trump's strange tantrums, yesterday's 625-word outburst certainly felt familiar. Strictly speaking, the statement didn't contribute much in the way of actual news: the former president whined incessantly about McConnell, pretended to be an electoral expert despite recently losing by 7 million votes, hilariously claimed credit for McConnell's re-election, repeated tired lies about his White House record, accused McConnell of having "substantial Chinese business holdings," and vowed to start intervening in GOP primaries.

It also included some unusually harsh phrasing -- the former president called his party's Senate leader "a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack" -- which was reportedly even more aggressive in an earlier draft.

But if there was little in the way of actual news, why bother noting it at all? For one thing, Trump has said very little in the month since leaving the White House, so his first lengthy public statement -- in this case, lashing out at a Republican who helped carry his water for four years -- was bound to generate some interest.

For another, the tirade served as a reminder that the former president's online misconduct may have limited his social-media options, but Trump has not been muted altogether. Like his predecessors, he's free to issue statements like these whenever he wishes.

But stepping back, I'm struck by the larger context: a month after the GOP lost control of the levers of federal power, as Democrats focus heavily on substantive policy goals, the Republican Party is beset by a series of internal divisions.

Some Republicans want nothing to do with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

Other Republicans have taken aim at House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.).

Some Republicans have soured on the House GOP leadership.

Other Republicans have soured on the Senate GOP leadership.

It's against this backdrop that the Republican Party's scandal-plagued former president has decided the real problem facing the GOP is Mitch McConnell.

The Republican Party is increasingly unpopular; it's losing members; it has no platform or policy agenda; and as the Biden era gets underway in earnest, the GOP is off to a schismatic start.

All things considered, this is not a great position for a national party to be in.