"Knucklehead": Trump continued to lash out at "stupid person" Mitch McConnell months after election

Trump continues to hurl insults at fellow Republicans in an upcoming book

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published July 19, 2021 2:57PM (EDT)

Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump tarred Sen. Majority Leader Mitch Majority, R-Ky., as a "stupid person" in an interview back in March, claiming that the Republican lawmaker was a "knucklehead" for not going through with Trump's wishes to the nuke the filibuster when he was in office. 

"I tried to convince Mitch McConnell to get rid of the filibuster, to terminate it, so that we would get everything," Trump said, "and he was a knucklehead and he didn't do it."

Trump's comments stem from an interview conducted earlier in the year by Washington Post journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, who back in late March jetted down to Mar-a-Lago to personally speak with Trump about his post-presidential operations as well as his retrospective views on his time in office. 

From the outset, the journalists – at one point handed a bound volume entitled "1,000 Accomplishments of President Donald J. Trump" – were immediately subjected to Trump's now months-old election conspiracies, in which the former president rattled out a series of equally grandiose and baseless claims about ballot "irregularities" in certain states. 

But instead of targeting Democrats, Trump directed much of his ire toward former Vice President Mike Pence and former Attorney General Bill Bar, who the former president erroneously claimed could have blocked the certification of President Joe Biden's election win. 

Pence, he said, could have "sent" the 2020 electoral votes "back to the legislatures" – a move he called "very acceptable." 

"And I could show you letters from legislators," the president continued, "big-scale letters from different states, the states we're talking about. Had he done that, I think it would have been a great thing for our country. I think he had bad advice."

Trump spoke not only of the election certification process but of the fatal riot that occurred that very same day, undoubtedly fueled by his own baseless rhetoric about fraud. 

Asked about January 6, Trump disavowed the riot, instead putting the blame on the Capitol police, who he said were "ushering people in," despite footage of the crowd violently attacking a number of police officers attempting to guard the building. 

"The Capitol Police were very friendly," he said. "They were hugging and kissing. You don't see that. There's plenty of tape on that."

The former president also rattled off a number of his apparently errant political debtors, such as Barr, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey – all of whom, he said, have shown him "disloyalty" for not backing his election conspiracies. 

"I needed better judges," Trump said, adding that the election "should have been reversed by the Supreme Court. I'm very disappointed in the Supreme Court because they did a very bad thing for the country."

Trump's frustration with Kavanaugh largely stems from the fact that Trump had defended Kavanaugh during his confirmation process when the justice was facing a number of sexual assault allegations from professor Christine Blasey Ford as well as others.

Asked whether he had any regrets about how he handled certain issues during his term, Trump, ever-hesitant to admit fault, did acknowledge one: that he didn't deploy the military during the George Floyd protests last year. 

"I think if I had it to do again," he said. "I would have brought in the military immediately."

As for the COVID-19 crisis, Trump felt that his administration handled the pandemic perfectly.

"I think we did a great job on COVID and it hasn't been recognized," Trump said. "The cupboards were bare. We didn't have gowns. We didn't have masks. We didn't have ventilators. We didn't have anything...We brought in plane loads. We did a great job."

When challenged on his advocacy of misinformation and junk science, he responded: "First of all, I'm a big person. Do you know this? My uncle, Dr. John Trump, I think he was at [the Massachusetts Institute of Technology] longer than any other professor. Totally brilliant man. He had numerous degrees. So that's in the genes. I always go with that stuff."

He added: "But it's a little bit in the genes and Dr. John Trump, he was a great guy. My father's brother. No, I'm a big believer in science. If I wasn't, you wouldn't have a vaccine. It depends. Are you talking about disinformation or are you talking about lies? There is a more beautiful word called disinformation."

Trump also praised himself for giving certain government officials, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, celebrity status during the COVID crisis.

"You have people that have never been stars before and all of a sudden the Washington Post is calling. New York Times is calling. CNN would love to have lunch with you. 'Come up and meet our editorial staff!'" Trump said. 

He added: "All of these people are calling. You are a regular person in government. If you were [in the] Jimmy Carter [administration], you're not calling these people. If you were [in the] Bush [administration], you're not calling these people. With Trump, everybody becomes a star. I'm the greatest star-maker in history."

Trump's remarks are just a fragment of what will likely be revealed in Leonnig and Rucker's forthcoming book "I Alone Can Fix It," which recount a series of chaotic – and previously unknown – mishaps from within the Trump administration. 

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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