Bullies prey on the weak, and they’re usually very good at figuring out who the weak are. Master bully Donald Trump is particularly good at it. He must think that Mitch McConnell is very, very weak.
The other day Trump ripped into McConnell, calling him a “son of a bitch” and a “stone-cold loser.” True to form, Trump doubled down on his bullying by going after McConnell’s wife as well.
McConnell is the leader of the Senate’s Republicans, but Trump doesn’t think much of his leadership. It’s pretty clear he’d like someone else in charge. Lindsey Graham is jockeying for the role, as is Ted Cruz. Graham might get it. Cruz almost certainly won’t.
One of McConnell’s main jobs is helping Republicans win Senate elections. It should be one of Trump’s as well. The two of them should be cooperating, but working with someone who insults your wife can’t be easy. The party faithful may applaud Trump’s bombastic behavior, but it hard to see how it will help them win.
Mitch McConnell Is angry. Some companies (Coca Cola, Delta Airlines) are speaking out against the voting rights law that Georgia Republicans just passed. Mitch thought they were over the line and channeled his inner Trump to try bullying the companies.
“Stay out of politics,” he warned them. Or what? He didn’t say.
McConnell’s position is massively ironic. Republicans have been happy to take corporate money for years. They were also supporters of the Citizen’s United ruling that let corporations spend money to buy political ads. Apparently buying political ads is fine as long as you agree with McConnell’s politics.
The problem is, Mitch doesn’t really wear the bully mantle well. Sure, in the Senate he carries a big stick. But as a populist leader of the Republican party, it just isn’t happening for him. He’s past his sell by date. Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham are running rings around him. Graham may even take his place as top Senate Republican (Cruz would love to, but it would never happen. Too many Republicans hate his guts.)
McConnell may have even scored an own goal with his threat. What if the Democrats agree with him and propose legislation to keep companies out of politics? It’s a slippery slope.
Mitch McConnell has bee justly labeled a hard hitting politician, but he has pretty much escaped accusations of major corruption. His wife has not. How much this affects him remains to be seen.
McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao went to work for Donald Trump as his Transportation Secretary. Like many on Team Trump, she is accused of using her position for personal gain. Trump’s Justice Department took a look at this during his last days in office and, not surprisingly, decided not to get involved.
The issue is now before Congress. McConnell is in a tough spot. On the one hand, he wants to defend his wife. On the other hand, if the evidence against her is clear and powerful, he will be seen as condoning the Trump administration’s swampy ethics.It would also be quite embarrassing politically.
Will the Democrats gain any leverage against McConnell due to this? Probably not – he’s a craftier politician than they are. His wife will lay low, though. You can probably say ciao to Chao for a while.
Chuck Schumer may be the new majority leader of the Senate, but when it really comes down to cutting deals on the big things it is probably going to be Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell that do the tango.
It’s not that Schumer’s a wallflower or irrelevent. He’ll be running 90%+ of the show. But Schumer is new in the role and has two handicaps: ambition and resentment at McConnell and the Republicans. McConnell doesn’t have either of these. He’s 78 and was just elected to another, and probably final, six year term. A mastermind of Senate rules and politics, he has nothing to prove and can operate with dispassionate effectiveness.
Biden is operating from the same place as McConnell. They are the same age and Biden has also reached the top of his ambition. He spent enough time in the Senate – as a senator and as Obama’s emissary there – to know what’s what. If something really difficult comes up, the two of them are going to be the dealmakers.
McConnell’s one distraction is Donald Trump. Trump scared the crap out of him with his insurrection antics. At a minimum, McConnell would like to keep Trump from performing a second act. What he really wants is to remove Trumpism from the Republican party and get it back to where it was before the tea party took it over.
Who knows, maybe Biden will help him.
In political scandals, the actual deed never gets anyone in real trouble. It’s the coverup that matters. Donald Trump knows this, which is why he admits to everything. “Yes, I did try to pressure the Ukrainian president. So what? It was the right thing to do.”
Whether or not you agree that it was the right thing to do, a coverup is not part of the narrative. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are trying to change that. Their strategy is to insist that the White House is trying to hide something by not allowing any witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial.
So far, Trump and Mitch McConnell seem to be in full control. But if the conversation changes from whether Trump did anything wrong to whether Trump was trying to cover something up they could find themselves behind an eight ball.
Update: January 12, 2020: Pelosi works on changing the narrative on ABC News’ “This Week” today: “Dismissing is a coverup. Dismissing is a coverup.”
Here’s a scenario. Donald Trump stonewalls on talking to special counsel Robert Mueller. He decides he has nothing to gain by answering his questions. Mueller cannot subpoena the President, so we are done.
Or are we?
Assuming the Dems take power in the House (not a safe assumption at all), a number of House committees will start investigating Trump for this and that. He will stonewall all of them. And there the matter will end.
Or will it?
Suppose the House votes to impeach Trump, knowing that they have no hope of winning a conviction in the Senate. But the reason for impeaching him is not to kick him out of office. It is to force a trial in the Senate where the President will have to testify under oath. In other words, the House tells Mueller, “Give us your questions – we’ll get the answers for you”.
Mitch McConnell will do everything he can to delay a trial. Brett Kavanaugh will likely help him. But you have to admin it would be a pretty sneaky way for the Dems to get Mueller the information he needs to build his case(s).