Mitch McConnell lashes out after he’s accused of being Russian sympathizer
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor Monday to blast the “hyperventilating hacks” who have accused him a being a Russian sympathizer.
The Kentucky Republican compared the attacks to “modern-day McCarthyism.”
“Over the last several days, I was called unpatriotic, un-American and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of baldfaced lies,” McConnell said. “I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir Putin.”
On Friday, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called McConnell “Moscow Mitch” during a segment of his “Morning Joe” show because the majority leader halted two measures aimed at preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections.
McConnell blocked the bills on Thursday, a day after former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before two House committees and reiterated how his 448-page report found the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller also warned that Russia is planning to interfere in the 2020 election “as we sit here.”
Also on Friday, Washington Post opinion columnist Dana Milbank wrote a piece titled “Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset,” in which he said McConnell’s actions are “unpatriotic” and that the “Kentucky Republican is, arguably more than any other American, doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding.”
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McConnell spoke with rare outrage Monday afternoon, saying he wanted to clarify things for the “hyperventilating hacks who haven’t actually followed this issue.”
McConnell spoke in frustration about Scarborough, “Morning Joe” and MSNBC, saying the show doesn’t offer truthful journalism and hosts “conspiratorial voices.”
“The host lied and said that I’ve dismissed Russian interference in our 2016 election as ‘a hoax,'” McConnell said. “Of course, I’ve never said any such thing, ever. I’ve spoken extensively and often about Russia’s unacceptable interference in 2016.”
Additionally, McConnell called Milbank’s column “a shameful smear” that is “based on more lies.”
“Mr. Milbank repeatedly claims that I blocked all efforts to raise our defenses against Russian meddling,” McConnell said. “The truth is that I’ve championed and coordinated work between Congress, the administration and the states, which are primarily responsible for our elections.”
Milbank listed several pieces of legislation that he said McConnell had blocked. However, McConnell claimed that he never opposed one of them, though he didn’t make clear which one.
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“You’d think a columnist leveling these kind of smears would at least consult a fact-checker before accusing an elected official of aiding and abetting Vladimir Putin,” McConnell said. “But, alas, it’s not even a competent hit piece. Just sloppy work.”
In all, McConnell addressed the Senate for about 20 minutes. He finished his remarks by circling back to McCarthyism, stating that Putin and Russians are trying to invoke fear in America and that mainstream media pundits are helping to perpetuate it.
“If anything is an asset to the Russians, it is disgusting behavior like that,” McConnell said.
McCarthyism refers to the 1950s campaign by former Sen. Joseph McCarthy to identify alleged Communists in the U.S. government and other institutions at a time when tensions were mounting between the United States and the then-Soviet Union.
MSNBC did not answer a phone call from the Courier Journal. Milbank did not immediately reply to an email.
Amy McGrath, who is challenging McConnell in the 2020 election, tweeted: “Let’s be very clear here: Mitch McConnell is blocking responsible election security measures that the House already passed. No matter how much he complains from his perch on the Senate floor, that’s the reality of the situation.”
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Follow Ben Tobin on Twitter @TobinBen.