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McConnell says he would 'absolutely' support Trump as 2024 nominee

McConnell this month called Trump's role in the deadly Jan. 6 riot a "disgraceful dereliction of duty."
President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hugs President Donald Trump at a rally in Lexington, Ky., on Nov. 4, 2019.Yuri Gripas / Reuters file

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that he would "absolutely" support former President Donald Trump if he won the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

"Well, there's a lot to happen between now and '24," McConnell said in an interview with Fox News. "I've got at least four members that I think are planning to run for president, plus some governors and others. There's no incumbent, a wide-open race, and should be fun for you all to cover."

Asked whether he would support Trump, who has hinted at a second run, if he became the Republican nominee, McConnell said, "Absolutely." Republican Sens. Josh Hawley of Missouri and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, as well as Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., have also been mentioned as potential candidates.

Only weeks ago, McConnell voted to acquit Trump at his impeachment trial while criticizing his "disgraceful dereliction of duty" on Jan. 6, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. The Senate voted 57-43 to convict him but fell short of the two-thirds majority needed.

"There's no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it," McConnell said at the time. "The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president."

McConnell said he voted not guilty on the single charge of incitement of insurrection solely because Trump was no longer in office — not because he believed Trump hadn't incited the crowd that stormed the Capitol, which resulted in five deaths.

Trump, in turn, slammed McConnell in a statement after the impeachment vote as a "political hack" who "doesn't have what it takes" to lead the party.

"The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political 'leaders' like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm," Trump said in a 600-word statement, in which he also blamed McConnell for Republicans' losing two key Senate seats in a special election in Georgia.