McConnell dismisses Trump attacks on him, GOP

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday brushed off harsh criticism he has received in the past from President Donald Trump and said he trusts Trump as a negotiating partner.

“I’m not particularly concerned about all of this,” McConnell said when asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” about Trump’s attacks.

He continued, “I refuse to get diverted off on the various comments that may be made at one time or another.”

Asked flatly if he trusted Trump, McConnell responded, “I do.”

The two appeared at a news conference at the White House on Monday in which Trump said they were “closer than ever before.”

The meeting, and the President’s conciliatory words, came after weeks of Trump leveling criticism at McConnell, who Trump has blamed for stalled health care legislation.

McConnell pointed to the confirmation of many of Trump’s nominees for executive and judicial positions, including Justice Neil Gorsuch, as evidence the Senate is doing its part to get things done.

Trump ally and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon has emerged as one of McConnell’s highest-profile critics on the right, casting McConnell and his allies as roadblocks to Trump’s agenda.

Bannon is encouraging anti-establishment Republicans to unseat senators supportive of Senate Republican leadership.

But in the interview Sunday, McConnell knocked the movement as the latest version of self-sabotaging GOP fights, saying on “Fox News Sunday” that Bannon and other operatives moving to edge out GOP incumbents are “specialists at nominating people who lose.”

“This element has been out there for a while,” McConnell said on CNN. “They cost us five Senate seats in 2010 and 2012 by nominating people who couldn’t win in November.”

The “inter-party skirmishes” amounted to a difference among Republicans about how to win elections, he said, adding that his side had the results to show its path was more likely to achieve victory in general election races.

“I think most Republicans want to see us win elections,” McConnell said.