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Trump slashes at McConnell as he reiterates election falsehoods at Republican event

Former president Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Feb. 28. In a speech at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., he lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Former president Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando on Feb. 28. In a speech at his Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., he lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Former president Donald Trump called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch” as he used a Saturday night speech to Republicans to blame the senator for not helping overturn the 2020 election and reiterated false assertions that he won the November contest.

Trump, speaking at a Republican National Committee gathering at his Mar-a-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. But he saved his sharpest vitriol for the Kentucky Republican.

“If that were Schumer instead of this dumb son of a bitch Mitch McConnell, they would never allow it to happen. They would have fought it,” he said of the election certification on Jan. 6, the day his supporters led an insurrection on the Capitol to block President Biden’s formal victory.

Former president Donald Trump slammed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Feb. 16, days after the Senate acquitted him in his second impeachment trial. (Video: Reuters)

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.

“I hired his wife. Did he ever say thank you?” Trump said. He then mocked Chao for resigning in response to the Jan. 6 events and Trump’s behavior that day.

“She suffered so greatly,” he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. He later called McConnell a “stone cold loser.” A McConnell spokesman declined to comment.

Some attendees left the private event early, with the speech getting mixed reviews.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says he doesn’t think former president Donald Trump will run for president again in 2024. He added that he thinks the Republican Party needs a new message to reach a wider group of voters. “I really think it’s critically important for the Republicans to come up with a message that appeals to a wider group of people. I think if we continue down this road, we’re going to continue to lose elections.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

The speech was light on his actual presidency, which some aides had wanted the former president to address, and delivered more of a familiar litany of grievances that seemed to animate the crowd. Many of his claims were false or misleading.

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 reiterated many of his false claims soon after beginning his remarks and dove into a few particular states in detail, such as Georgia and Pennsylvania, continuing to claim he won their votes and attacking politicians including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R). He spoke for about an hour, according to an attendee, and bragged that he had tossed his prepared and “boring” speech, the attendee said.

“Bulls---,” he said about the election, before polling the room of Republican donors on whether they believed he won.

He also falsely said most Democrats also believe he won but just won’t say so out loud, an 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 former vice president Mike Pence for certifying the election later that day. He expressed no regret about his actions on Jan. 6, nor about those of the Capitol rioters.

“I wish that Mike Pence had the courage to send it back to the legislatures. . . . I like him so much. I was so disappointed,” Trump said.

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 plans to never speak to him again.

Trump attacked many of his favorite targets, such as Anthony S. Fauci, the country’s leading infectious-disease specialist, even mocking Fauci for his first pitch last season at Nationals Park — a frequent Trump taunt. 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 their use.

“Have you ever seen anybody that is so full of crap?” he said of Fauci.

The former president said, without saying who, that someone recently suggested to him that the coronavirus 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, such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

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

“They’re coming in from the Middle East. They’re not sending their best people. You have murderers, you have rapists, you have drug dealers,” Trump said.

He again said he was impeached “over a perfect phone call” and was jealous of Democrats for sticking together to vote against him. He said Republicans needed to be just as unified.

“We can’t have these guys that like publicity,” he said.