Thursday last week, the national political correspondent from Axios Johnathan Swan held an exclusive interview with Mitch McConnell on the most recent edition of the News Shapers segment by Axios. The Republican Senate leader provided his take on the latest news, the buzz around Capitol Hill, and also provided an early prediction for the upcoming midterm elections later this year, among other talking points.
The Thursday interview was the first time that the Senate leader was questioned on his contradictory statements – one, from February 2021 when he said former president Donald Trump was “morally responsible” for the attack on Capitol Hill on January 6, and his statement two weeks later, where he said he would “absolutely” support the ex-president if he is nominated by the party for the 2024 presidential elections. He said that he was “obligated” to support Trump if nominated. Looking at the big picture, McConnell repeatedly laid emphasis on his absolute loyalty to the party during the half-hour interview.
Swan kicked off the interview by bringing up the Ukrainian crisis, and asked Mitch McConnell, “According to a recent poll, less than half of Republican voters said it’s in America’s best interest to stop Russia and help Ukraine. How would you explain to those millions of GOP voters why it’s in America’s best interest to send billions of taxpayers dollars to Ukraine?” McConnel said that it was America’s “moral obligation, strategic obligation and it is in America’s best interest to be helping Ukraine’.
McConnell dodges Swan’s question about his “moral red lines”
Jonathan Swan pressed the Kentucky Republican on his stance on the obvious hypocrisy that McConnell presented in his contradictory statements from last year, asking, “You are known for playing a ruthless style of politics. Where do you draw your moral red lines?”
McConnell humorously dodged the question saying, Ï didn’t realise I was known for playing ruthless…My wife thinks I’m a really nice guy, my kids like me, I’m shocked to hear such a comment.”
Swan pressed again, saying, “Let’s just take as a premise, and I think that the audience might agree with me, that there are some people, who might agree with that assertion. So, moral red lines, where do you draw them?” to which McConnell replied with, “I’m perfectly comfortable with the way I have conducted my political career…Yeah, I’m very comfortable with my moral red lines.”
At this point Swan seemed visibly frustrated, trying to get his point across. He read out from his notes what McConnell had said in his speech last year, calling out Trump as “morally responsible” for the events of Jan 6th, and then his statement that followed two weeks later, where McConnell said he would absolutely support Trump if nominated by the party in 2024.
He dragged Liz Cheney into the frame as an example, and said that she had the same stance on the ex-president’s involvement in the attack, and she is actively trying to “keep Trump away from the White House”. Swan said, “Ï’m just actually trying to understand: Is there any threshold for you …”’, when he was interrupted by McConnell saying, “well, you know, I say many things I’m sure people don’t understand.”
“I choose not to answer your question” -Mitch McConnell when asked if he would hold hearings if a Supreme Court seat opens next year.
Johnathan Swan asked McConnell if he would hold hearings for President Biden’s nominee if a Supreme Court seat opens in 2023 and Republicans take the Senate in November. “If Republicans take the Senate in November, and a Supreme Court seat opens next year in 2023, not an election year, can you make a commitment to the American public here today, that you will at least hold hearings on President Biden’s nominee?” -asked Swan.
“Most hypotheticals, I don’t answer and I think that whole question puts the cart before the horse”. -replied McConnell. He said that if the Republicans win the Senate this year, then-President Biden will “finally be the moderate he campaigned for”, and that he would only be interested to work with Biden if he’s willing to be moderate.
Swan insisted that McConnell answer, saying that it was a big deal that he did so because McConnell made a “principled argument” for not holding hearings on then-President Obama’s nominee. “Are you suggesting that you’re developing an argument for not holding hearings on the Supreme Court nominee if it’s not an election year?’ -Swan asked.
McConnell replied that he was suggesting “not answering the question”. “I choose not to answer the question” -he said.