Trump launches Truth Social attack on Mitch McConnell’s wife over criticism of his losing candidates

Trump lashed out after McConnell warned the former president's Senate candidates could cost the GOP control

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published August 22, 2022 9:27AM (EDT)

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

Former President Donald Trump lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-Ky., wife, former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, over the GOP leader's criticism of Trump's Senate picks.

With Trump-endorsed candidates struggling in key contested races, McConnell last week admitted that the Republicans may fail to recapture the Senate even as they are widely expected to win a majority of House seats. McConnell, who has often backed candidates opposing Trump's picks, cited "candidate quality" as a reason for the underperformance.

"I think there's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate. Senate races are just different — they're statewide, [and] candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome," McConnell told supporters in Kentucky on Thursday, in a not-so-veiled shot at the former president's endorsees.

Trump lashed out over the comments on his Twitter knockoff Truth Social.

"Why do Republicans Senators allow a broken down hack politician, Mitch McConnell, to openly disparage hard working Republican candidates for the United States Senate. This is such an affront to honor and to leadership," Trump complained.

The former president also took aim at Chao, who served as his Transportation secretary until she resigned over the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

"He should spend more time (and money!) getting them elected, and less time helping his crazy wife and family get rich on China!" Trump wrote.

Chao's family owns the Chinese shipping company Foremost Group. Chao has no official ties to the company but she faced allegations of conflicts of interest while serving in Trump's Cabinet over concerns that she used her position to help her family's business — much like Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and his family.

While lashing out at Chao as "McConnell's wife," Trump made no mention that he appointed her to the position. She remained on the job until the Capitol riot, resigning because the attack "deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside."

And while demanding McConnell should spend more money to help the GOP field, Trump himself has given small amounts to candidates he is backing despite raising over $120 million for his super PAC. An analysis by Reuters earlier this year showed Trump spending just 11% of his war chest on his preferred candidates. The McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, meanwhile, last week invested a whopping $28 million in ads to help boost Trump-backed Republican JD Vance as he struggles to pull away in a state Trump carried twice.

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

Vance, the author of "Hillbilly Elegy" who has gotten millions in backing from tech billionaire Peter Thiel, was outraised by Democratic opponent Tim Ryan 4-to-1 last quarter. Some Ohio Republican insiders are increasingly worried the GOP could lose a seat in the state, with one local talk radio host describing it as the "worst campaign you could possibly run."

The Senate Leadership Fund has also plowed over $34 million into the Pennsylvania Senate race, where Trump-backed candidate Dr. Oz trails Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman by double-digits in nearly every poll.

Trump's other candidates in key swing states this year are also struggling. Polls have shown Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., growing his lead over Trump-backed Republican Blake Masters, another Thiel protégé that has failed to capitalize on millions in backing he got from the billionaire. Polls also show Trump-backed Republican Herschel Walker trailing Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

Midterms are typically brutal for parties of sitting presidents and President Joe Biden's low approval rating threatens to be a drag on some candidates in November, but the trend of Trump-backed candidates struggling to win over support outside of the GOP base has moved the FiveThirtyEight Senate forecast squarely toward the Democrats for the first time this cycle.

"Having amateur candidates who've never run for office before carrying the banner for the Republican Party in critical Senate races is a risky maneuver," Republican pollster Whit Ayres told The Washington Post. "The list is quite lengthy of Senate seats lost by weak Republican candidates, even in good Republican years."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2022 Elections Aggregate Donald Trump Elaine Chao Jd Vance Mehmet Oz Mitch Mcconnell Politics