A skirmish (or two) involving President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Washington Post, and MSNBC has escalated into unusual personal bitterness this week, with election security legislation and Trump's attacks on US Rep. Elijah Cummings as the triggers. The AP explains:
- The McConnell arm of the drama started when the Post's Dana Milbank wrote an opinion column published Friday that criticized McConnell for blocking legislation aimed at protecting the nation's political system against foreign attack. Noting Russia's cyber intrusion on the 2016 presidential election and indications that it would try again next year, Milbank's column was headlined, "Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset." Milbank wrote that he could only conclude that the Republican leader from Kentucky, who is up for re-election next year, believes Russian influence would benefit him and his party. "A leader who won't protect our country from attack is no patriot," he wrote.
- McConnell denounced the attacks on the floor of the US Senate on Monday, calling it "modern-day McCarthyism" from people who "have worn out the volume knob so badly that they have nothing left but the most unhinged smears." He said the legislation he blocked was partisan in nature. "It doesn't make Republicans traitors or un-American," he said. "It makes us policymakers with a different opinion."
- Responding to a reporter's question about Milbank's Post column, Trump said the newspaper's leaders "ought to be ashamed of themselves and they ought to apologize."
- Fred Hiatt, the Post's editorial page editor, said Milbank's column was legitimate commentary. "Of course it's equally legitimate for Mr. McConnell to express a contrary view, but the Milbank argument has nothing to do with McCarthyism," Hiatt said. Trump had defended McConnell while speaking to reporters outside the White House. The Post said it had no comment on what the president said on Tuesday.
- Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's Morning Joe, picked up on the subject, labeling McConnell "Moscow Mitch." Read on for Trump's latest fight with the show's co-hosts, and how Cummings is involved.