“I feel exhilarated by the fact that this fellow finally, totally discredited himself,” McConnell told Jonathan Martin, a New York Times reporter who detailed the exchange in a new book, “This Will Not Pass.” Excerpts of the book were obtained and reported on by The Washington Post on Monday.
“He put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger,” the Kentucky Republican reportedly told Martin at the U.S. Capitol in the early hours of Jan. 7. “Couldn’t have happened at a better time.”
He also asked the political correspondent for intelligence on whether the Cabinet and vice president might considering removing Trump from office using provisions of the 25th Amendment, according to the book.
McConnell then reportedly told Martin he had spoken to Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), about releasing a joint statement telling Trump not to attend President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
A spokesperson for McConnell did not immediately return a request for comment.
McConnell’s immediate reaction in the wake of the riot ― both publicly and privately ― stand in stark contrast to his actions and statements since.
Publicly, he forcefully denounced Trump, calling his actions on Jan. 6 “a disgraceful dereliction of duty” and saying it was obvious he incited the riot. Yet he still voted to acquit Trump of the “incitement of insurrection” charge after Trump was impeached by the U.S. House, arguing it was pointless because he’d already left office.
And the next month, McConnell said he’d support Trump for president in 2024 if he won the Republican nomination.
In an interview earlier this month, McConnell was asked by Axios’ Jonathan Swan how he could flip-flop so dramatically from his initial comments about Trump to supporting a potential 2024 candidacy.
He said it should be no surprise that he’d back his party’s nominee. Pressed on whether a Republican nominee could do anything to lose his support, McConnell evaded the question.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) also initially supported consequences for Trump privately while publicly changing his tune in the weeks following the assault on Congress.