Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, privately met with former President Donald Trump in Florida earlier this week, the latest example of the splintering views among leading congressional Republicans on the role Trump plays in the party going forward.
“He’s in Florida this week on political travel and had meetings at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday and touched base with President Trump while he was there,” Scalise’s spokeswoman Lauren Fine told CNN. Politico first reported the meeting.
The visit comes at a time when the GOP is split over Trump’s legacy in the party as it moves forward in the Biden era. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also visited with Trump at Mar-a-Lago a few weeks ago and most House Republicans – with the notable exception of GOP conference chair Liz Cheney – view Trump as a force in the party.
But Trump’s support is less pronounced in the Senate, where GOP leader Mitch McConnell and John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican who faces reelection in South Dakota next year, have both worked to distance themselves from the former President in recent weeks.
McConnell delivered scathing remarks about Trump on the Senate floor after voting to acquit him in the impeachment trial, even suggesting he might be criminally prosecuted for his actions leading up to the January 6 Capitol attack.
On Tuesday – the same day Scalise visited Trump – the former President launched a public war against McConnell for his floor remarks, writing in a statement that he is “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack.”
McConnell has made the calculation that he’s done with the former President and is moving on, sources close to the GOP leader have told CNN, and he has no plans to respond to Trump’s blistering attack.
Trump, however, has vowed to endorse candidates in Senate primaries who back his politics – something that could lead to a clash with McConnell’s preferred candidates as the seven-term senator pushes Republicans whom he believes stand the best chance of winning in next year’s midterm elections.