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Trump Allies Accuse This GOP Senator of Spreading Fake Rumors Of Trump-DeSantis Feud

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Is it Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell?

Allies of former President Donald Trump suspect that McConnell is behind reports of a growing rift between the 45th president and Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been mentioned often as a potential presidential contender in 2024.

“When … DeSantis went on a top political podcast last week, he panned the Covid lockdowns former President Donald Trump encouraged early in the coronavirus pandemic,” NBC News began a Monday report, adding:

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The remarks made for irresistible headlines — the two GOP heavyweights and possible 2024 contenders were feuding. Just days before, Trump had appeared to take a swipe at DeSantis, calling politicians who have refused to reveal their vaccination status “gutless.”

Both camps have denied any real friction, and they blamed “the media” for overhyping tensions, but Trump advisers say they see a hidden hand at play: that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is in a pitched battle with Trump over the future of the Republican Party in political races all over the country.

They pointed to the podcast itself because DeSantis made the attention-grabbing remarks on Ruthless, which is co-hosted by McConnell’s longtime adviser Josh Holmes. Shortly after the podcast was posted Friday, Twitter was flooded with the suggestion that DeSantis had knocked Trump by saying one of his biggest regrets was not having been “louder” about the harms of the lockdowns intended to help slow the spread of the virus.

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But several people close to the former president believe that it all looked like a setup.

“I like Josh. Josh is great. But he’s a wholly-owned subsidiary of McConnell World. And there’s no way you can tell me that this was all a coincidence,” one Trump adviser told NBC News in comments similar to four others who agreed to speak but only on condition of anonymity.

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“Also, DeSantis and his staff knew what they were doing. How many Florida general election voters are listening to the Ruthless podcast?” the adviser continued.

“Now, that said, they might have been hoping for more out of Ron, because, let’s face it, he didn’t really criticize Trump. But they knew the media would instantly jump on it and wish-cast it into existence,” the adviser continued.

The adviser added that the politically adept McConnell clearly views DeSantis as a lesser of two presidential evils and a perfect foil for Trump, who just happens to live in Florida.

For his part, Holmes said he did not want to get into a rift over the interview and vehemently denied he felt any ill will towards Trump. He also called any suggestion that McConnell was involved in creating a phony ‘war’ between Trump and DeSantis as “insane.”

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One Republican operative also disputed the notion that McConnell, who has said publicly he would support Trump if he became the party’s 2024 nominee, was involved in anything nefarious.

“I’m sure Josh Holmes would like you to believe that Mitch McConnell is behind the scenes, moving pieces against Trump,” Sarah Longwell, an anti-Trump Republican strategist, told NBC News. “But I don’t think that’s it. I think that McConnell is wholly owned by Trump.”

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Regardless, there is little doubt that friction exists between McConnell and Trump, the former of whom criticized the president and blamed him for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Last week, Trump responded to a report that McConnell is attempting to recruit Arizona GOP Gov. Doug Ducey to run for the U.S. Senate in a bid to add another Republican member he believes is less likely to be influenced by the former president.

“Rumors are that Doug Ducey, the weak RINO Governor from Arizona, is being pushed by Old Crow Mitch McConnell to run for the U.S. Senate. He will never have my endorsement or the support of MAGA Nation,” Trump said, according to his super PAC.

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