WASHINGTON - For the second time in as many weeks, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell rebuked former President Donald Trump over political extremism and said it will make it even harder for him to regain the presidency in 2024.
McConnell criticized Trump's suggestion that the U.S. Constitution be terminated and he be re-installed as president, saying anyone who believes that "would have a very hard time being sworn in as president of the United States."
McConnell, who criticized Trump last week for his dinner with an outspoken white supremacist, would not say whether he would support Trump should the Republicans re-nominate him for the presidency in two years.
The Senate GOP leader had not commented on Trump's Saturday statement until he opened a news conference with reporters with a brief statement following a Republican lunch meeting; other GOP leaders have also been reticent to discuss Trump's views of the U.S. Constitution.
Trump and McConnell have clashed frequently over the future of the Republican Party; the tension will only increase in the wake of GOP reversals in the midterm elections and Trump's announcement that he will seek the presidency again in 2024.
Stay in the conversation on politics: Sign up for the OnPolitics newsletter
Trump and the GOP: Republican leaders mostly silent over Donald Trump's call to suspend the Constitution
Last week, after McConnell criticized the former president for hosting a dinner with white supremacist Nick Fuentes, Trump responded by calling the Senate GOP leader "a loser."
McConnell joined a slow-rising reaction among Republicans objecting to Trump's bizarre call for "termination" of the U.S. Constitution and his installation as president because of alleged problems with the 2020 election. Multiple investigations, court cases and audits have found no widespread voter fraud in 2020, although Trump continues to spread false claims.
Most Republicans did not make immediate comments on Trump's statement; some GOP members responded when asked by reporters on Sunday interview shows and after many returned to Washington, D.C., for congressional business.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., called the statement "irresponsible," and said Trump's re-nomination as president is "increasingly less likely given statements like that."
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a Monday floor speech that more Republicans need to speak out: "We need nothing less than an avalanche of condemnation from Republicans but sadly all we've gotten so far are just a few flurries here and there."
"Republicans need to speak up," Schumer said, "because if America doesn't extricate itself from Donald Trump and his MAGA ideology, it could undercut our American way of life."
Dinner dispute: Mitch McConnell joins Republicans to denounce Donald Trump's dinner with white supremacist
In a Saturday post on Truth Social, Trump cited a Twitter report on how the social media giant handled news stories about Hunter Biden's laptop and posed an odd question: "Do you throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION?"
Trump went on to say that the situation "allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution."
In a Monday follow-up, Trump denied saying that "I wanted to 'terminate' the Constitution," even though the original post - complete with the word "termination" - remains on his Truth Social account.
In another follow-up, this one in all caps, Trump again said the election "SHOULD GO TO THE RIGHTFUL WINNER OR, AT A MINIMUM, BE REDONE."
Trump was citing a report from Twitter on how the social media website handled news reports in 2020 about a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden.
Trump's comments about the Constitution only added to the rocky rollout of his 2024 presidential campaign.
It has included Trump's dinner with Fuentes and rapper Ye (Kanye West), both of whom have made a litany of antisemitic statements.
Of that event, McConnell said "there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy," and anyone meeting with people with those views "is highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States."
Fact check: Joe Biden legally won presidential election, despite persistent contrary claims
Some Republicans said leaders were too slow to condemn Trump's dinner and have been similarly tardy on his idea for shredding the Constitution.
Outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who was defeated in a Republican primary by a Trump-backed challenger, took aim at House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy.
"Last week you wouldn't condemn Trump for dining with Fuentes & West," she tweeted. "This week Trump said we should terminate all rules, regulations etc 'even those in the Constitution' to overturn the election. Are you so utterly without principle that you won't condemn this either?"
When a CNN reporter asked McCarthy about Trump's comments, he said "I fully support the Constitution" and walked on.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: McConnell hits Trump on call for 'termination' of Constitution