Trump called McConnell 'mean as a snake' for wanting to beat conservative Democrats rather than work with them: report
President Donald Trump has learned to be the confrontational partisan that the GOP needed him to be. He helped Republicans pass their package of tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy with no input from Democrats, and during his 35-day federal government shutdown, he made totally one-sided demands of Democrats until public opinion and disastrous airport groundings forced him to capitulate.
But Trump didn't start out this way. When he first took office and huddled with Republican leaders in strategy sessions in 2017, he was initially so taken aback by the cutthroat brand of politics practiced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that he called him as "mean as a snake," according to the tell-all book by Trump's former special assistant Cliff Sims.
According to Sims, Trump, McConnell, and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) were discussing how to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. McConnell told Trump that the whole party would have to be unified because "we're going to be doing this without any Democratic votes." Trump then asked why they couldn't get Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) on board, to which McConnell replied, "he'll never be with us when it counts," and said the focus would be on defeating him in 2018, not selling him on the GOP agenda:
"Well, Joe's been a friend of mine, so we'll have to see," Trump said, turning his attention back to McConnell. "Do we have to go after him like that?" "Absolutely, Mr. President," McConnell shot back without a moment's hesitation. "We're going to crush him like a grape." Outside the walls of the Roosevelt Room, the conventional wisdom was that men like McConnell would temper Trump's aggressive impulses. Just the opposite was happening right now. There was a brief silence—maybe a half second—when the atmosphere in the room felt like the scene in Goodfellas when no one can tell how Joe Pesci is going to react to Ray Liotta calling him "funny." Would he freak out? Would he laugh it off? Finally Trump broke the tension.
"This guy's mean as a snake!" he said, pointing at McConnell and looking around the room. The entire group burst out laughing.Though Trump was initially taken aback, he quickly got the hang of it and said, "I like it though, Mitch, if that's what you think we need to do."
Manchin has earned a reputation as one of the most conservative Democratic senators in Congress, voting for Trump's agenda 60 percent of the time. However, true to McConnell's prediction, even he has rejected most of the GOP's core legislative agenda, including repeal of the ACA and the tax bill. He was a top target of the Senate GOP in 2018, as West Virginia voted for Trump by 42 points, but his challenger, state attorney general Patrick Morrisey, never really got off the ground. Manchin won re-election 49 to 46.