Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Trump lashes out at leaders in GOP

McConnell top target of ex-president

- COMPILED BY DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE REPORTS Informatio­n for this article was contribute­d by Josh Dawsey of The Washington Post (WPNS); and by Steve Peoples of The Associated Press.

Former President Donald Trump, speaking to a Republican National Committee gathering at his Mara-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., excoriated a number of Republican­s even as he publicly called for party unity, focusing on those who voted to convict him in impeachmen­t proceeding­s. He saved his sharpest vitriol for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

“If that were [Senate Majority Leader Charles] Schumer instead of this dumb sonofab***h Mitch McConnell they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it,” he said of election certifying on Jan. 6, the day his supporters led an insurrecti­on on the Capitol to block Joe Biden’s formal victory.

Trump spent much of the speech, with many senators in the room, lashing into his former ally in personal terms, often to cheers from the party’s top donors. He falsely claimed that he won the Senate election for McConnell in Kentucky and attacked his wife, Elaine Chao, who served as Trump’s transporta­tion secretary.

He later called McConnell a “stone cold loser.” A spokesman for McConnell could not immediatel­y be reached.

The speech was light on his actual presidency, which some aides had wanted him to address, and delivered more of a familiar litany of grievances that seemed to animate the crowd.

He did not directly address his 2024 plans other than to express confidence about the Republican nominee winning, an attendee said, preferring instead to look back at the last election.

He spoke for about an hour, according to an attendee, and bragged that he had tossed his prepared and “boring” speech, the attendee said.

Trump said the crowd at his rally preceding the Capitol attack was so large — falsely claiming that “some people say it was over a million people” — because supporters were upset about fraud and said he was “disappoint­ed” in Vice President Mike Pence for certifying the election later that day.

He expressed no regret about his actions on that day, nor about those of the Capitol rioters.

The Republican Party paid more than $100,000 to the former president’s club to hold the event there, with the rest of the festivitie­s at the nearby Four Seasons resort. McConnell was not there, and he has not spoken to Trump in months, telling advisers he never plans to speak to him again.

While a significan­t faction of the Republican Party hopes to move past Trump’s divisive leadership, the location of the event — and the former president’s prominent speaking slot — suggests that the GOP, at least for now, is not ready to replace Trump as its undisputed leader and chief fundraiser.

Trump attacked many of his favorite targets, such as Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading epidemiolo­gist. He falsely claimed that Fauci only received credit because he opposed Trump, an attendee said, and joked that Fauci wanted people to wear five masks after not initially supporting masks.

The former president said, without saying who, that someone recently suggested to him that the vaccine should be called the “Trumpcine.” He bragged about his handling of the pandemic, dismissing the widespread criticism of his approach and not mentioning the more than 500,000 who have died of covid-19.

He praised Republican­s who have ignored public health concerns about opening and reopening their states.

Reprising an attack from the day he launched his campaign in 2015, he called immigrants “murderers, rapists and drug dealers.”

Trump’s words left some attendees feeling uncomforta­ble.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich did not defend Trump as he left Palm Beach on Sunday.

“We are much better off if we keep focusing on the Democrats. Period,” Gingrich said.

Ahead of his latest attack on fellow Republican­s, Trump’s team reported that his remarks were intended to reinforce his continued leadership role in Republican affairs, a sharp break from past presidents.

“Saturday’s speech will be welcomed words to the Republican donors visiting Mar-a-Lago to hear directly from President Trump,” Trump adviser Jason Miller said. “Palm Beach is the new political power center, and President Trump is the Republican Party’s best messenger.”

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