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Mitch McConnell Endorses Trump, Whom He Once Denounced

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Mitch McConnell Endorses Trump, Whom He Once Denounced

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Three years after delivering a scorching denouncement of Donald J. Trump after the Jan. 6 riot, Senator Mitch McConnell endorsed him for president on Wednesday, illustrating Mr. Trump’s power to bend the Republican Party to his will as he marches to the G.O.P. nomination.

Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican minority leader, and Mr. Trump had not said a word to each other since December 2020. But people close to both men had been working behind the scenes for weeks to pave the way for the endorsement.

The Kentucky Republican had been the highest-ranking member of the party to withhold an endorsement for Mr. Trump. And for the former president, Mr. McConnell’s backing could be important as he tries to corral some Republican donors who have been leery of him.

It was shortly after the 2021 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob that Mr. McConnell publicly blamed the riot on Mr. Trump’s incessant lies that the 2020 election had been stolen. But he also declined to vote to convict Mr. Trump during the former president’s second impeachment trial, indicating that the criminal justice system was the place to deal with him.

“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” Mr. McConnell said in a speech after the trial had ended. There was no question that Mr. Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” he added.

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” Mr. McConnell said.

In return, Mr. Trump continuously mocked Mr. McConnell and smeared him.

A year later, Mr. McConnell said in an interview with Axios that he would back the nominee of the Republican Party, even if that nominee was Mr. Trump. As it became clear that Mr. Trump had outlasted his Republican primary challengers, Mr. McConnell’s confidant and longtime political strategist, Josh Holmes, and Chris LaCivita, a top campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, began working on re-establishing a relationship between the two teams.

And on Wednesday, after Mr. Trump’s victories on Super Tuesday and after Nikki Haley announced that she was dropping out of the Republican race, Mr. McConnell released a statement formally backing Mr. Trump.

“It is abundantly clear that former President Trump has earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee for President of the United States,” he said in a statement. He added, “It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support. During his presidency, we worked together to accomplish great things for the American people including tax reform that supercharged our economy and a generational change of our federal judiciary — most importantly, the Supreme Court.”

Last week, Mr. McConnell announced that he would step down as minority leader at the end of the year — and acknowledged that his views were no longer in line with a party now firmly in the grip of Mr. Trump.

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