McConnell endorses Trump three years after calling him responsible for ‘violent insurrection’ on Jan 6

After Nikki Haley’s departure from the 2024 Republican presidential primary, outgoing Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell endorsed former President Donald Trump for a second term.

“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.

While Mr McConnell’s relationship with Mr Trump has deteriorated to such a degree that they haven’t spoken for years, the Senate minority leader was always expected to back the eventual Republican nominee.

Mr Trump now has no challengers left for the nomination, with only his legal woes standing in his way.

He faces 91 criminal counts across four indictments and significant civil damages stemming from trials against New York state and writer E Jean Carroll, who accused the former president of defamation after he forcefully rejected her allegations that he sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s.

“It should come as no surprise that as the nominee, he will have my support,” Mr McConnell said of Mr Trump. “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.”

Mr McConnell declined to give then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick, now-Attorney General Merrick Garland, a hearing following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

With the help of Mr McConnell, Mr Trump managed to put three justices on the court during his four years in office – remaking the judiciary has been a top issue for Mr McConnell, who’s the longest-serving Senate leader in US history, having held the post since 2007.

“I look forward to the opportunity of switching from playing defense against the terrible policies the Biden administration has pursued to a sustained offense geared towards making a real difference in improving the lives of the American people,” Mr McConnell said.

The Senate minority leader’s endorsement comes after he said Mr Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 2021, which Mr McConnell called a “violent insurrection” to “prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next”.

In his speech on the Senate floor he said: “Former President Trump's actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. The House accused the former president of, quote, ‘incitement’. That is a specific term from the criminal law.

“Let me put that to the side for one moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago: There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.

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

“And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on Planet Earth.”

Even so, Mr McConnell chose not to vote to convict Mr Trump in the impeachment trial, saying: “We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen.”

On several occasions, Mr Trump made racially offensive remarks against Mr McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, who served in the Trump administration as the secretary of transportation and in the administration of George W Bush as the secretary of labor.

In January last year, Mr Trump wrote “Does Coco Chow have anything to do with Joe Biden’s Classified Documents being sent and stored in Chinatown?”

“Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and, of course, China,” he added at the time.

The Senate minority leader waited for Ms Haley to drop out before he endorsed Mr Trump, but in her speech on Wednesday, Ms Haley chose not to endorse the presumptive nominee of her party.

“I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee,” she said. “But on this question, as she did on so many others, Margaret Thatcher provided some good advice when she said, ‘never just follow the crowd. Always make up your own mind.’”

“It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it who did not support it. And I hope he does that,” Ms Haley added.