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The legacy of Moscow Mitch


The fly in Mitch McConnell’s chardonnay mint julep is that although he has an unusually hostile relationship with Trump as most Republican elites became affirmative supporters, nobody has acted more consequentially to enable him:

If there is one person who single-handedly held the power to banish Donald Trump from public life, and thus to save the republic from any threat he will return to power and use it as a weapon of vengeance, that person is Mitch McConnell. In the days after January 6, 2021, Trump had discredited himself with his party and stood on the brink of reputational ruin. The House had impeached him for his coup attempt, with ten Republicans joining in. With a small push, McConnell likely could have mustered enough votes to convict him and disqualify the former president from holding public office again.

Instead, McConnell decided such a vote, by splitting his party, would put it at a disadvantage. He convinced himself Trump would simply fade away on his own. And now, three years later, Trump stands as the prohibitive favorite to regain power, as McConnell has watched his influence ebb as he fades away into retirement.

I will say that I’m a little less confident that the votes would have been there to impeach Trump, but it remains a fact that McConnell gave up preemptively, and pretended to believe that it was unnecessary. If multiparty democracy in America doesn’t survive 2024, McConnell will be one of the people who bear the most responsibility. even before we get to his role in creating the Supreme Court supermajority that is currently throwing the rule of law into the Potomac.

And we also shouldn’t forget his role in covering up Russian ratfucking in the 2016 election, portending his indifference to Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election:

In September 2016, top intelligence officials held a grave briefing with leaders of Congress to warn of Russia’s interference, which included the hacking Democratic emails. McConnell, according to the Washington Post, “raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.” He thwarted any chance to form a bipartisan front against Russian election interference.

Trump’s presidency brought a stream of evidence confirming the fears that he would abuse power, all of which McConnell ignored. Even the revelation that Trump had held up aid to Ukraine, one of McConnell’s few points of genuine interest, to blackmail the country into smearing Joe Biden did not dislodge his support.

When Trump refused to concede the 2020 election, instead concocting preposterous lies that it had been stolen, McConnell shrugged again. “A few legal inquiries from the president do not exactly spell the end of the republic,” he insisted. Indeed, Trump’s attempt to overturn the election was no different, somehow, than Democrats denouncing Russian election interference: “Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election.”

The next Republican Senate leader will be more openly MAGA, but he can’t be a more valuable Trump ally.

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