Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday did not directly respond when asked if he would support Donald Trump should he win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Speaking at a weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, McConnell said there is “simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy.” The remark came in the wake of the former president’s meeting with white nationalist and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes and the rapper formerly known as Kanye West.
He then offered a political prediction: “Anyone” who gathers with white nationalists is “highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.”
But that’s as far as the top Senate Republican was willing to go. He did not rule out supporting Trump in the future. He didn’t call on Trump to apologize for last week’s meeting, as former Vice President Mike Pence has done. And he didn’t demand that Trump denounce Fuentes, something the former president has yet to do.
McConnell usually likes to pretend Trump doesn’t exist, rarely weighing in on any controversies involving the former president or answering questions about him. So it was notable that he directly addressed Trump’s dinner with Fuentes on Tuesday, with little coaxing from the press.
But his response was a far cry from the comments made by some of his colleagues, who called Trump out by name.
On Monday, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) repeatedly described the meeting as “ridiculous,” while Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called Fuentes “evil,” adding that Trump shouldn’t have met with the white nationalist because it “legitimized” his views.
“There’s no bottom to the degree which he’s willing to degrade himself, and the country, for that matter,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said of Trump.
Still, McConnell went marginally further than Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is aiming not to upset the Trump wing of the GOP in his uphill climb to become House speaker next year. The Californian on Tuesday said he doesn’t think “anybody should be spending any time” with Fuentes, but he then went on to defend Trump by falsely claiming that the former president had denounced him.
McConnell voted to acquit Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol in his second impeachment trial, even though he said Trump was to blame for inciting his supporters to storm the building. A month after the attack, the Kentucky Republican said he would “absolutely” back Trump in 2024 if he becomes the GOP presidential nominee.