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Reprinted with permission from Alternet
Although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn't go out of his way to openly criticize former President Donald Trump — unlike outspoken Never Trump conservatives such as The Lincoln Project, attorney George Conway, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, The Bulwark's Bill Kristol and Washington Post columnists George Will and Max Boot — it is obvious that there is incredibly bad blood between McConnell and Trump. That bad blood is the focus of an article written by Wall Street Journal reporters Michael C. Bender and Lindsay Wise.
McConnell infuriated Trump when, in December 2020, he acknowledged Joe Biden as president-elect and refused to go along with the Big Lie —Trump's false claim that the election was stolen from him because of widespread voter fraud. Then, after the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol Building, McConnell openly blamed Trump for the attack, although he subsequently voted "not guilty" during Trump's second impeachment trial — a move that drew criticism from Democrats as well as Never Trump conservatives.
Bender and Wise report, "Mitch McConnell's record-long reign as Senate Republican leader has lasted long enough for former President Donald Trump. Mr. Trump has spoken recently with senators and allies about trying to depose Mr. McConnell and whether any Republicans are interested in mounting a challenge, according to people familiar with the conversations. There is little appetite among Senate Republicans for such a plan, lawmakers and aides said, but the discussions risk driving a wedge deeper between the most influential figure in the Republican Party and its highest-ranking member in elected office."
Trump isn't trying to hurt McConnell via a GOP primary challenge. The Kentucky Republican was reelected in 2020, decisively defeating centrist Democrat Amy McGrath — and he won't be up for reelection until 2026. But Trump, according to Bender and Wise, is hoping to see McConnell ousted from his position as GOP leader in the Senate.
"The feud between the two men threatens to splinter the party when Republicans could be building momentum in their bid to recapture control of Congress next year," the WSJ reporters observe. "As polls have shown Mr. Biden's approval rating dipping below 50 percent this summer — a troubling signal for Democrats' political fortunes — the two Republican septuagenarians remain divided over how to tilt the balance of a 50-50 Senate back toward their party."
Trump recently said of McConnell, "I think he's very bad for the Republican Party." But McConnell's supporters disagree, noting how much he has done to move the federal judiciary to the right — not only the U.S. Supreme Court (where Republican appointees are now a 6-3 majority), but also, the lower federal courts.
Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana believes that Trump's chances of ousting McConnell from his GOP leadership role are slim, telling the WSJ, "I just don't realistically see that happening."
According to Bender and Wise, "The only primary so far featuring a direct Trump-McConnell showdown is in Alaska, where the former president has endorsed a bid from a former state agency head, Kelly Tshibaka, to unseat Sen. Lisa Murkowski. Ms. Murkowski, who has support from Mr. McConnell and the NRSC as she seeks her fourth six-year term, was among seven Republican senators who voted in February to convict Mr. Trump at his second Senate impeachment trial. She is the only one of those who is seeking reelection next year. Mr. Trump was acquitted."
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By Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors on Monday unsealed criminal charges against two longtime Republican Party operatives, accusing them of illegally funneling a foreign campaign contribution to former President Donald Trump in 2016.
According to an indictment unsealed in federal court in the District of Columbia, Jesse Benton and Doug Wead "conspired to illegally funnel thousands of dollars of foreign money from a Russian foreign national into an election for the Office of President of the United States of America."
U.S. law bans foreign nationals from donating money to presidential campaigns.
According to the indictment, Benton and Wead helped a Russian national get a ticket to a fundraiser with Trump in Pennsylvania in September 2016.
The Russian, who was not identified in the indictment, donated $25,000 to political action committees associated with Trump in order to attend the event, according to prosecutors.
But the true source of the donation was concealed from the Trump campaign, the indictment said, because the payment was secretly funneled through Benton, who acted as a "straw donor."
Benton, 43, previously managed campaigns for Republican Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky before he was convicted for his role in a political endorsement scheme. Benton avoided jail time and received a presidential pardon in December 2020 from Trump.
Wead, 75, worked as a senior adviser on multiple presidential campaigns and ran for Congress as a Republican in 1992.
It was not yet clear if the two had engaged legal counsel.
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Peter Cooneyand Peter Cooney)
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