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Trump, in Scorching Attack on McConnell, Urges G.O.P. to Replace Him


Former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday made a slashing and lengthy attack on Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, calling him a “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack” and arguing that the party would suffer losses in the future if he remained in charge.

“If Republican senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Mr. Trump said.

The 600-word statement, coming three days after the Senate acquitted him in his second impeachment trial, was trained solely on Mr. McConnell and sought to paint Mr. Trump as the best leader of the G.O.P. going forward. The statement did not include any sign of contrition from Mr. Trump for his remarks to a crowd of supporters who then attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6. Nor did it include any acknowledgment of his role during the violent hours in which his own vice president and members of Congress were under threat from the mob of Trump supporters.

Rather, Mr. Trump chose to focus on Mr. McConnell as he broke an unusually lengthy silence by his standards, after being permanently barred from his formerly favorite medium — Twitter — last month because of tweets that he posted during the Capitol riot.

Shortly after he joined the majority of Republican senators on Saturday in voting to acquit Mr. Trump on the House impeachment charge of “incitement of insurrection,” Mr. McConnell excoriated Mr. Trump, laying the blame for the deadly riot at his feet and suggesting that further investigations of the former president could play out in the judicial system.

Those comments were widely interpreted as an attempt to minimize Mr. Trump’s brand of politics within the Republican Party, and to appeal to donors who have said they are rejecting the party after some senators voted against certifying President Biden’s victory.

Mr. McConnell wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed article and gave an interview to the paper’s news section suggesting he might get involved in primaries for 2022 as part of an effort to win back the majority. Representatives for Mr. McConnell did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

One person close to the former president said his initial version of the statement was more incendiary than what was released publicly. A second person said the statement was issued instead of a news conference that Mr. Trump had initially planned to give on Tuesday, out of fear he would go off track and say even harsher things extemporaneously.

In the statement, Mr. Trump resorted to insults about Mr. McConnell’s acumen and political abilities, and faulted him for Republicans’ loss of their Senate majority.

“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” Mr. Trump said. “McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from majority leader to minority leader, and it will only get worse.”

Mr. Trump offered up some new taunts: “The Democrats and Chuck Schumer play McConnell like a fiddle — they’ve never had it so good — and they want to keep it that way!” he said. “We know our America First agenda is a winner, not McConnell’s Beltway First agenda or Biden’s America Last.”

While Mr. McConnell has faulted the former president for the party’s losses last month in both Senate races in Georgia, Mr. Trump maintained that it was because Republican voters were angry that the party’s officials had not done more to address his baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

Mr. Trump claimed credit for Mr. McConnell’s victory in his own Senate race last year, and took a swipe at Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who worked for the Trump administration as the transportation secretary.

“McConnell has no credibility on China because of his family’s substantial Chinese business holdings,” Mr. Trump said. “He does nothing on this tremendous economic and military threat.”

“He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our country,” Mr. Trump said, adding that “where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First.”

The statement was the longest one Mr. Trump has issued since leaving office on Jan. 20.

The former president has also been mindful that he is the target of multiple investigations, people close to him said, and has been advised against appearing to taunt prosecutors or people who might sue him in civil courts. Still, Mr. Trump’s ability to stay silent through situations that anger him tends to last only so long.

Mr. Trump’s advisers are discussing backing nearly a dozen candidates in primaries against the Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment, a move that would only deepen Mr. Trump’s friction with Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House minority leader. Not all of Mr. Trump’s aides think this is a wise course of action.

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