Former US president speaks at conservative conference dominated by his supporters amid Republican Party in-fighting.
Former President Donald Trump kept up his attack on US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday, saying Republicans would do well to find a new leader if they hope to take back the Senate in 2022.
Trump launched the latest salvo on Fox Business Network, when his interviewer asked about the upcoming midterm election battle for control of the Senate and House of Representatives.
“We need good leadership. Mitch McConnell has not done a great job. I think they should change Mitch McConnell,” the former president said, according to the Reuters news service.
US Republicans have splintered over the former president’s future political role after the January 6 Capitol riot and Trump’s second impeachment by the House of Representatives. The former president remains popular among Republican voters and local activists.
Asked about Trump’s comments, McConnell told Fox News Channel, “We’re looking to the future, not the past.”
The Kentucky Republican has led his caucus in the Senate without opposition since 2007.
Bad blood between Trump and McConnell could complicate matters for Republicans as they try to reclaim the Senate majority, with both voters and legislators divided between Trump loyalists and the traditional party.
Democrats took control of the Senate in January by winning two seats in Georgia, after Trump stirred divisions by pushing the false claim that the 2020 election had been stolen from him and attacking Republican state officials for not overturning the results.
The 100-seat Senate is currently divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote. But Democrats are well aware that the party that controls the White House historically loses seats in Congress in the first election of a presidency.
McConnell drew Trump’s ire by acknowledging that President Joe Biden had won and by blaming Trump for the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol after the Senate acquitted the former president on a charge of inciting insurrection.
Less than a month ago, Trump called McConnell “a son of a bitch” at a dinner for Republican National Committee donors at his Mar-a-Lago Club, according to an attendee.
After toying with the idea of forming a new party, Trump announced at a conservative conference dominated by his supporters that he would seek to unite Republicans.
House Republicans, who have good chances of retaking the House next year, held a strategy retreat in Orlando, Florida, earlier this week. Trump was not invited to speak, prompting questions of Republican leaders by reporters.
“Right now the Republican Party is headed by Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy in the House,” said Representative Liz Cheney, who has argued the party needs to move on from the Trump era.
“We’re very much going to be focused on the substance and the issues and that’s where we’ve got to attract back the voters that we lost in 2020, that, in fact, we are the party that they can trust. We’re the party of competence and of conservative principles.”