Although the two men almost always support each other in public, several members of McConnell’s innermost circle told me that in private things are quite different. They say that behind Trump’s back McConnell has called the President “nuts,” and made clear that he considers himself smarter than Trump, and that he “can’t stand him.” (A spokesman for McConnell, who declined to be interviewed, denies this.) According to one such acquaintance, McConnell said that Trump resembles a politician he loathes: Roy Moore, the demagogic former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, whose 2017 campaign for an open U.S. Senate seat was upended by allegations that he’d preyed on teen-age girls. (Moore denies them.) “They’re so much alike,” McConnell told the acquaintance.
McConnell’s political fealty to Trump has cost him the respect of some of the people who have known him the longest. David Jones, the late co-founder of the health-care giant Humana, backed all McConnell’s Senate campaigns, starting in 1984; Jones and his company’s foundation collectively gave $4.6 million to the McConnell Center. When Jones died, last September, McConnell described him as, “without exaggeration, the single most influential friend and mentor I’ve had in my entire career.” But, three days before Jones’s death, Jones and his two sons, David, Jr., and Matthew, sent the second of two scorching letters to McConnell, both of which were shared with me. They called on him not to be “a bystander” and to use his “constitutional authority to protect the nation from President Trump’s incoherent and incomprehensible international actions.” They argued that “the powers of the Senate to constrain an errant President are prodigious, and it is your job to put them to use.” McConnell had assured them, in response to their first letter, that Trump had “one of the finest national-security teams with whom I have had the honor of working.” But in the second letter the Joneses replied that half of that team had since gone, leaving the Department of Defense “leaderless for months,” and the office of the director of National Intelligence with only an “ ‘acting’ caretaker.” The Joneses noted that they had all served the country: the father in the Navy, Matthew in the Marine Corps, and David, Jr., in the State Department, as a lawyer. Imploring McConnell “to lead,” they questioned the value of “having chosen the judges for a republic while allowing its constitutional structures to fail and its strength and security to crumble.”
John David Dyche, a lawyer in Louisville and until recently a conservative columnist, enjoyed unmatched access to McConnell and his papers, and published an admiring biography of him in 2009. In March, though, Dyche posted a Twitter thread that caused a lot of talk in the state’s political circles. He wrote that McConnell “of course realizes that Trump is a hideous human being & utterly unfit to be president,” and that, in standing by Trump anyway, he has shown that he has “no ideology except his own political power.”