Trump attack on McConnell signals growing distance from party

McConnell congratulates Biden on winning, president tweets ‘too soon to give up’

US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has broken from US president Donald Trump and congratulated Joe Biden on his election victory. However, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany refused to follow McConnell's lead.

 

US president Donald Trump hit back at top Republican Mitch McConnell’s move to recognise Joe Biden as the next president of the United States, in a sign of deepening tensions between the president and the Republican establishment.

After weeks of silence, Mr McConnell congratulated Mr Biden in a speech on the senate floor on Tuesday, a day after the electoral college reaffirmed the Democratic candidate’s victory in the November 3rd election.

But taking to Twitter, Mr Trump chastised the top-ranking Republican, saying it was “too soon to give up”.

“Mitch, 75,000,000 VOTES, a record for a sitting President (by a lot),” he tweeted in the early hours of Wednesday morning, referring to the 75 million votes he received. “Too soon to give up. Republican Party must finally learn to fight. People are angry!”

He later retweeted a headline saying: “Trump allies slam Mitch McConnell for congratulating Biden.”

In a boost to Mr Trump, the Republican-controlled homeland security and governmental affairs committee in the senate held a hearing on “election irregularities” on Wednesday. Among those who testified were several figures who led efforts to overturn the election results in swing states, who were permitted to air unsubstantiated claims about election fraud. However, Christopher Krebs, the former head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency who was fired by Mr Trump last month after he defended the security of the nation’s election system, told the committee he stood by his previous statements.

“I’ve yet to see anything from a security perspective…that would change my opinion on that,” he said, adding: “I think we’re past the point where we need to be having conversations about the outcome of this election.”

As the president continued to question the validity of the election he lost through various tweets on Wednesday, president-elect Joe Biden pressed on with his nominations for cabinet and administration officials. He unveiled Pete Buttigieg, his formal rival for the Democratic nomination, as his nominee for transportation secretary.

Introducing Mr Buttigieg, Mr Biden described the 38 year-old as “one of the smartest people you will ever meet, and one of the most humble”, a “policy wonk with a big heart”.

Mr Buttigieg, a war veteran and former Rhodes scholar, will be the first openly gay cabinet member in US history if approved by the senate. In remarks in Delaware, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana addressed the historic nature of his appointment. He recalled watching a story on the news when he was 17 years-old about a Clinton appointee for ambassador who was denied a vote in the senate because he was gay.

“I watched that story, and I learned about some of the limits that exist in this country when it comes to who is allowed to belong,” he said. “Two decades later, I can’t help but think of a 17-year-old who might be watching right now; someone who wonders whether and where they belong in the world, or even in their own family, and I’m thinking about the message today’s announcement is sending to them.”

Relief package

Separately, lawmakers on Capitol Hill appeared close to agreeing a new coronavirus relief package before the current round of government funding runs out on Friday. The $900 billion (€738bn) deal comes on the back of the $2.2 trillion package agreed in March. While Democrats are now prepared to accept a much lower price-tag than they had hoped, a fresh round of direct payments to Americans has been included in the new package. Keeping the total cost under $1 trillion also guarantees Republican support.  

The new impetus to secure a stimulus deal comes amid disappointing retail figures on Wednesday which found that retail sales fell by 1.1 per cent in November – a steeper drop than most analysts had expected.