Former US president Donald Trump has warned Republicans that they “will not win again” if they continue to back Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.
In a statement just days after his impeachment trial, Mr Trump said: “Mitch is a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack and if Republican senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again.”
Mr Trump said the party “can never again be respected or strong” with leaders such as Mr McConnell, describing him as having a “lack of political insight, wisdom, skill and personality”.
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The former president’s words come just days after he was acquitted by the Senate in his impeachment trial, with the Democrats failing to get the two-thirds majority they needed.
Mr Trump had been charged with incitement of insurrection over January’s violent riot at the US Capitol just as Congress was trying to ratify the result of the presidential election.
Just before the riot, thousands of Trump supporters had gathered at one of his rallies nearby as he told them: “Fight like hell, or you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Mr McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Washington DC, had voted to acquit Mr Trump but only because he believed that the Senate had no jurisdiction over a former president.
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He had, however, told the Senate that Mr Trump was “morally responsible” for the riot.
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In his statement on Tuesday, Mr Trump blamed Mr McConnell for the “complete election disaster in Georgia”, saying he “did nothing…he doesn’t have what it takes, never did and never will”.
But Mr Trump also praised himself for helping Mr McConnell in his home state of Kentucky, saying: “Without my endorsement, Mr McConnell would have lost, and lost badly.”
He called for “brilliant, strong, thoughtful and compassionate leadership”, adding that he would back primary rivals who “espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First”.