McConnell lets an indicted Trump twist in the wind

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), and his top deputies remained silent Tuesday as former President Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felonies. This is a sign of how far they have diverged form their former ally.

Many Republican senators blame Trump and the Senate Republican’s disappointing performance last year for losing the Senate majority.

Trump’s chances of winning the general election in 2024 are also questionable, particularly given the possibility of additional charges from both the Fulton County District Attorney and the Department of Justice.

His Tuesday arraignment only adds to his political baggage as the GOP presidential front-runner.

McConnell has not spoken to Trump since December 2020. He didn’t respond to Tuesday’s arrest. He did not respond to the news of Trump’s indictment on Thursday.

Instead, he released a statement praising Finland’s accession into NATO. This is something he has supported since last year.

Al Cross, a University of Kentucky professor of journalism and a long-time commentator on McConnell’s career, stated that McConnell doesn’t feel the same pressure to rally behind Trump as other Republicans.

McConnell doesn’t feel the pressure like other humans. McConnell has resisted the temptation to talk, and it’s paid off. “You don’t get in jail for something you didn’t say,” he stated. Trump’s strategy was to not get too close to the kryptonite, and to let others do the talking and work behind-the scenes.

Cross speculated McConnell wouldn’t be willing to defend Trump while he is facing new indictments.

He said, “There will be more shoes to drop” and he believed that Mitch McConnell would know more about Donald Trump’s circumstances than us. “He is the most influential and well-informed person in the country. He has many sources of information, and he likely sees more things.”

Scott Jennings is a Republican strategist who advised McConnell’s previous campaigns. He noted that McConnell is sticking to his strategy, which was to stay clear of Trump who has repeatedly attacked him over the past two-years.

“He hasn’t mentioned Trump since December 2020. He’s pretty much taken a I’m-going-to-ignore-this-guy approach. He said that he believed this was a continuation of the previous statement.

He said, “All of the circus today reinforces an even larger dynamic — The American people want nothing but a Trump/Biden match in ’24.”

McConnell is trying reduce the political influence of the former president in GOP politics.

In February, he told reporters that he was focusing on West Virginia, Montana and Ohio to “get the most electable candidate[s]” nominated in these states.

McConnell’s calm handling of Trump’s indictment is starkly different from Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

McCarthy tweeted Tuesday that “Bragg was attempting to interfere with our democratic process by invoking Federal Law to bring politicized Charges against President Trump, admittedly using Federal funds, while simultaneously arguing that Congress does not have the jurisdiction to investigate this farce. This is not true. Congress will hold Bragg responsible for his weaponization of federal justice processes.”

Trump’s most vocal critic at the Senate GOP conference was Senator Mitt Romney (Utah), who called out Alvin Bragg, Manhattan District Attorney.

“No one is above law, not even former presidents,” but everyone has the right to equal treatment under law. Romney warned that the prosecutor’s excessive reach sets dangerous precedents for criminalizing political opponents, and damages public faith in our justice systems.

The Senate Republicans are divided over whether Congress should investigate Bragg and possibly withhold federal grants supporting his office.

Last month, Sen. John Cornyn (Texas), a senator to the Senate Republican leadership group, stated to reporters that he believes that House Republicans should remain focused on the agenda that won them the majority of their votes last year and not get into battle with Bragg.

However, Sen. Thom Tillis (Republican-N.C.), a recently promoted counselor to Senate GOP leadership, stated Tuesday that “politics shouldn’t tip the scales in justice” and that Congress has every right and authority to demand answers from the Manhattan D.A.

A Republican strategist requested anonymity as he expected to work for Trump’s primary rivals. He said that Trump might be helped in the short-term by the indictment, which could fuel his fundraising and encourage Republicans to rally behind him. But, he believes it will harm Trump politically in the long-term.

“Short-term, what we’ve witnessed will continue, they are going to rally around President because it feels politically,” the strategist stated, noting that Bragg was elected under an overwhelming Democratic jurisdiction and backed Color of Change PAC which accepted funding from billionaire George Soros.

The strategist believes that Trump will feel the weight of the charges as the case progresses and more details are known.

“As the 34 charges come out, people dive deeper into the details to see what happened in Georgia and at the federal level. The source said that the former president could be weighed down by the legal charges, which can lead to long-term problems.”

McConnell, according to the strategist, “can rest and wait before he weighs-in” to determine how Trump’s charges fair in court and in public opinion.

McConnell initially resisted questions regarding Trump’s claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 elections, telling reporters that he would leave the legal system to sort them out.

He said, “The courts [and] dispute resolution are our job,” in November 2020. However, he later strongly criticized Trump’s claims following the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.