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Why McConnell, even now, would 'absolutely' back Trump in 2024

Two weeks ago, McConnell accused Trump of a "disgraceful dereliction of duty." McConnell is nevertheless ready to support Trump's second term.
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

Though the remarks were quickly overshadowed by an insurrectionist riot, Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered floor remarks on Jan. 6 on the vote to certify President Joe Biden's victory. The Republican leader suggested Donald Trump's demand that senators reject the election results "would damage our republic forever."

A couple of weeks later, McConnell spoke again, decrying the fact that the pro-Trump forces who attacked the Capitol had been "fed lies," and had been "provoked" by Trump.

On Feb. 13, in the immediate aftermath of the impeachment trial, McConnell once again delivered memorable floor remarks, condemning Trump's "disgraceful dereliction of duty" on Jan. 6. The Senate minority leader added, "There is no question -- none -- that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. No question about it."

In the same speech, McConnell called out Trump for his "crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole ... orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out." The Kentucky senator went on to raise the prospect of Trump facing civil and/or criminal penalties.

And yet, despite all of this, McConnell is still willing to support Trump in 2024.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that he would "absolutely" support former President Donald Trump if he won the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.... Asked whether he would support Trump, who has hinted at a second run, if he became the Republican nominee, McConnell said, "Absolutely."

To be fair, McConnell also insisted that "a lot" will likely happen between now and the next presidential election, and he expects "a wide-open race" for the Republicans' 2024 nomination. This is not a situation in which the Senate minority leader is likely to endorse Trump for the GOP nod, should the former president run again.

But the bottom line remains the same: if Trump is the Republican nominee, McConnell will "absolutely" support his party's ticket. The "lies," the "disgraceful dereliction of duty," the "moral responsibility" for a deadly insurrectionist attack, the "crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole" -- none of those things matter more than McConnell's partisan commitments. Period. Full stop.

The Senate minority leader added, "[W]hat happened in the past is not something relevant now."

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, there's a scene in which John Cleese's Sir Lancelot, certain he's doing the right thing on behalf of a damsel in distress, storms into a castle during a wedding party, indiscriminately slaughtering most of the guests with his sword. The castle owner, eager to curry favor with Lancelot, urges the survivors to let bygones be bygones.

"Let's not bicker and argue about who killed whom," he tells his few remaining guests.

McConnell's on-air comments were similar: Sure, Trump may have incited a deadly riot on the heart of the United States' system of government, but let's not bicker and argue about who attacked whose democracy.

I can appreciate why McConnell's position generated so much attention overnight. It's not often when a prominent American political leader accuses someone of a "disgraceful dereliction of duty," only to turn around two weeks later to announce he'll support that same person's presidential candidacy anyway.

But to know anything about Mitch McConnell is to know this: he cares more about partisan power than literally any other consideration. His position is amazing, but it is not surprising.