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McConnell and Cotton ‘plotted behind Trump’s back to prevent senators overturning election’


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tom Cotton schemed to prevent Republican senators joining President Donald Trump‘s effort to overturn the result of the 2020 presidential election, according to a new book. 

It describes how McConnell believed Cotton’s conservative credentials would make him a useful ally in persuading the G.O.P. not to go along with Trump’s plan to prevent certification of the results.

The tale is revealed in journalist David Drucker’s book, ‘In Trump’s Shadow: The Battle for 2024 and the Future of the GOP,’ which is published next week by Twelve. 

Helpfully for a Republican often talked of as a possible 2024 contender, it suggests Cotton – who had courted Trump personally and remained close to him politically up to the end – was never convinced by the president’s argument that Congress could invalidate an election result.

‘But as is his habit, he wanted to be thorough,’ writes Drucker in an excerpt published by Vanity Fair.

‘In early December, Cotton directed legislative aides on his Senate staff to research the matter extensively and prepare an exhaustive memorandum. 

‘As the senator suspected, it made plain that the Constitution had not, in fact, built in a secret back door for Congress or the vice president to invalidate presidential election results. 

A new book reveals how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Tom Cotton worked together to stop more senators backing President Trump’s bid to overturn 2020 result

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas

McConnell (l) had already declared Biden the winner of the election and lobbied to stop Republicans backing Trump’s cause by the start of January. But Cotton kept his powder dry and planned to publish an op-ed at the last moment before the Jan. 6 certification explaining why he could not back an effort to block Biden’s victory

David Drucker's book 'In Trump's Shadow' is published on Oct. 19 by Twelve

David Drucker’s book ‘In Trump’s Shadow’ is published on Oct. 19 by Twelve

‘In mid-December, after the states had certified their results and the Electoral College had voted, Cotton read in McConnell. 

‘Together, they plotted to countermand Trump’s bid to overturn the election and neutralize interest in objecting to Biden’s victory that was developing in some quarters of the Republican conference.’

McConnell, after allowing Trump’s legal challenges to run their course, had already declared Biden the victor. 

But Cotton, senator for Arkansas, planned to stay quiet ahead of the Jan. 6 certification by Congress, fearful that infighting could undermine crucial Senate runoff elections in Georgia. 

But the plan was upended when Sen. Josh Hawley – a young senator in a Trumpian mold – declared publicly that he would object to certification.

Sen. Ted Cruz was next, bringing along another 10 senators. 

With Trump already promising to back anyone who primaried Sen. John Thune, who said he would not try to block Biden’s win – McConnell decided it was time to move.

‘The majority leader had been aggressively whipping the issue,’ writes Drucker.

‘But he believed that Cotton, with his conservative bona fides and reputation as a Trump loyalist, might be more effective at talking teetering Senate Republicans off the ledge by providing cover to those who privately wanted to stand behind the certification of Biden’s victory but feared the consequences back home.’

Cotton (l) and Trump in happier times at the White House in August 2017 as the president unveiled legislation that would place tougher limits on legal immigration

Cotton (l) and Trump in happier times at the White House in August 2017 as the president unveiled legislation that would place tougher limits on legal immigration

 

Cotton's intervention brought quick pushback from Trump in January (before his Twitter account was suspended), as he took aim at what he called the 'surrender caucus'

Cotton’s intervention brought quick pushback from Trump in January (before his Twitter account was suspended), as he took aim at what he called the ‘surrender caucus’

Cotton’s plan to publish an op-ed in an Arkansas paper on the morning of Jan. 6th was brought forward three days.

It read in part: ‘I’m grateful for what the president accomplished over the past four years, which is why I campaigned vigorously for his reelection. But objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term.’

The violence of Jan. 6 when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol in an effort to prevent certification of the result also had an impact on senators.

Instead of 12, just six voted to throw out Biden’s win in Arizona; seven voted to reject the Pennsylvania result.

But members of McConnell’s leadership team, Thune and Sen. John Barrasso, of Wyoming, told Drucker the number of dissenters never snowballed out of control, thanks to Cotton. 

‘”Tom played a very important role, especially as people were starting to waver,” Thune told me on January 8, with the shock of what amounted to an attempted coup, albeit an amateur one, still fresh in the air,’ wrote Drucker.

‘”He took a risk coming out Sunday rather than waiting quietly until Wednesday; he knew it wouldn’t be popular with the base.”‘

Nor indeed Trump, who warned Cotton on Twitter that Republicans ‘never forget.

‘The ‘Surrender Caucus’ within the Republican Party will go down in infamy as weak and ineffective ‘guardians’ of our Nation, who were willing to accept the certification of fraudulent presidential numbers!’ he wrote. 



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