The history of the United States Senate is filled with the names of powerful politicians – John McCain, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren come to mind. Chief among them is Mitch McConnell. McConnell has served as both the Senate Minority and Majority Leader and is one of the most recognizable politicians at work in D.C. today. Despite being at the forefront of Senate legislation, the subject of biographies and exposes, McConnell is a guarded man. When speaking to The Atlantic in 2021, he admitted, “I only talk to the press if it’s to my advantage.” It would be easy to write McConnell off as a steadfast and loyal Republican, but the truth is so much more complex than that.
McConnell’s ascension to power hasn’t been a straightforward path, in fact, in the beginning, he wasn’t even very conservative. His ex-wife works with Gloria Steinem, his current wife might have abused power as Transportation Secretary, and his daughter runs a liberal non-profit. In short, there’s a lot more to McConnell than meets the eye.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about the enigmatic Senator.
Mitch McConnell has a high net worth.
You already know Mitch McConnell as the most powerful man in the Senate, but did you know he’s also one of the richest? According to certain outlets, McConnell is worth a cool $35 million. Where did all the money come from? Well, it turns out, most of McConnell’s money isn’t actually his money, per se. McConnell earns a respectable $193,400 as Senate majority leader. Even after spending years in the Senate, that salary wouldn’t add up to anywhere near $35 million — even if he never spent a penny, per Celebrity Net Worth.
The bulk of McConnell’s wealth actually comes from his wife, Elaine Chao. The pair married in 1993, and for the first decade or so of their marriage, his net worth was only around $3 million. Cut to 2008 when Choa’s family gave the couple a tax-exempt gift of $25 million, per The Washington Post. Thanks to some smart investments, his wealth has only increased since then
He was very sick as a child
You’d never know it now, but Mitch McConnell had an extremely difficult childhood. McConnell was very sick as a child. McConnell was diagnosed with polio in 1944 at just two years old. His earliest memory is reportedly the day he left the treatment facility for the last time. McConnell’s left leg was completely paralyzed. The scary medical condition, which is all but nonexistent now, demanded nearly two years of therapy and invasive medical treatments for McConnell. Finally, at the age of four, he was finally given the all-clear, per ABC.
Years later, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, McConnell reflected on those trying years. “Why does this current pandemic remind me of [that time]? I think No. 1 is the fear,” he said when speaking to The Associated Press (via ABC). “And the uncertainty you have when there’s no pathway forward on either treatment or a vaccine and that was the situation largely in polio before 1954.”
McConnell has used that scary time in his life to connect with his constituents to try and encourage them to take the COVID-19 vaccines. In a 2021 PSA McConnell pleads with citizens to be responsible for their health. “As a boy, I fought polio,” he said. “Today, America’s been polio-free for 40 years — thanks to vaccination. We’ll beat COVID-19 with vaccines, too. Protect yourself and your family. Get vaccinated.”
Mitch McConnell’s political views have changed
These days Mitch McConnell is known as the leader of the conservative party. It might come as a bit of a shock then, to learn that in his early days, he was anything but. McConnell came up during a heyday of moderate republicans. In fact, his biggest role model was reportedly Kentucky Senator John Cooper, who was well known for opposing traditional Republican legislation. “It’s hard to believe now, but it was true; his great model was this liberal Republican from Kentucky who made his name standing up to [Sen. Joe] McCarthy, opposing Vietnam, and taking other stances that were very unpopular in Kentucky,” Alec MacGillis told Vox. “And that was his great model early on.”
At times, McConnell was even known to be pro-abortion and pro-union (via US News). In his early days, he used to work with liberal groups like the AFL-CIO, who praised him for his bipartisan ways, per PBS. In recent years McConnell has been seen as anything but bipartisan, something MacGillis attributes to his competitive nature. “Even as you saw him as a moderate/liberal Republican earlier on, you saw these glimmers of expediency earlier — you can still see that the overriding desire was to win, and to an extent that’s unusually strong even compared to other politicians,” he told Vox.
Mitch McConnell started at the very bottom
These days Mitch McConnell might sit comfortably atop the power totem pole in Washington D.C. these days, but that wasn’t always the case. McConnell started his political career at the very bottom. His first taste of power came when he was a student at the University of Louisville College of Arts and Sciences and served as student body president. He then moved on to the University of Kentucky College of Law, where he was president of the bar. From there he set his sights on D.C.
McConnell moved to the capital and began interning in the office of Senator John Sherman Cooper before serving as chief legislative assistant to Senator Marlow Cook, per Republican Leader. That’s when McConnell’s career took a particularly surprising turn. It might come as a surprise to learn that after paying his dues on Capitol Hill, McConnell worked for a prolific democrat. After leaving Marlow’s office, McConnell began working for Gerald Ford as the Deputy Assistant Attorney General.
Working for a president at a young age is pretty impressive, but it doesn’t sound like Ford and McConnell necessarily hit it off. In an interview with a local Kentucky radio station, WAVE 3’s “Caton Bredar,” McConnell remembered his time working for Ford. “[He] was basically a more than adequate placeholder who kind of restored the confidence of the American people after the Watergate episode,” McConnell said, which is not exactly a resounding endorsement if you ask us.
His wife works in politics
Mitch McConnell and his first wife did not see eye to eye politics but he and his second wife definitely do. McConnell married fellow republican Elaine Chao in 1993, a few years after being introduced by a mutual friend, per Insider. Chao immigrated to the U.S. from China as a child and excelled in school, eventually going on to earn an MBA from Harvard University (via Elainechao.com).
Chao is just as committed to her career as her husband is. She’s held several impressive jobs across the political spectrum. Some of her more impressive accomplishments include being head of the Peace Corps in the early and her time as George W. Bush’s Labor Secretary from 2001-2009, per Town and Country.
Chao was once again appointed to the presidential cabinet when Donald Trump took office in 2017. She served for almost his entire term but resigned in seeming solidarity with her husband in 2021 after the Capitol riots, per CNN.
Mitch McConnell has three daughters
They say the two things you should never talk about at the dinner table are religion and politics, and we’re guessing that’s a rule Mitch McConnell lives by. Why, you ask? Because McConnell and his daughters don’t see eye to eye on most issues. In fact, his daughter Porter has reportedly taken to Twitter to ask Kentuckians to vote against her father in senatorial elections. To call Mitch McConnell fiscally conservative is an understatement, so it might come as a bit of shock to learn that Porter is the director of Take on Wall Street, per In Style. According to the website, “Take On Wall Street began in the spring of 2016. We are a coalition of over 50 labor unions, consumer activists, community groups, and faith groups,” with the goal of addressing the “predatory economic power of Wall Street banks.”
McConnell has two other daughters, Elly and Claire. While neither is as outspoken politically as Porter, they also reportedly don’t get along with Dad. According to The New Yorker, Elly is a registered democrat, and Claire has tweeted her dislike for Brett Kavanaugh. It’s impossible to guess at the exact nature of McConnell’s relationship with his daughters, but it’s safe to assume they definitely get into some lively discussions around the dinner table.
Mitch McConnell is divorced
Long before Mitch McConnell’s controversial marriage to Elaine Chao, he was married to a woman named Sherill Redman. Get to know her, and you probably won’t find a pair more mismatched than McConnell and his ex. Redman and McConnell were married for a little over 12 years and share three daughters, per The Sun.
Just how different are Redman and McConnell? Well, they really couldn’t have taken more different career paths. While McConnell has been climbing the republican totem pole, Redman has spent most of her life advocating for the people her ex seems to ignore. After divorcing McConnell, Redman took a job at Smith College working with famed feminist Gloria Steinem on the “Voices of Feminine Oral History Project.” According to Steinem, who spoke with The New Yorker about her co-worker, Redman didn’t spend a lot of time reminiscing about her life with McConnell.
“I can only imagine how painful it must be to marry and have children with a democratic Jekyll and see him turn into a corrupt and authoritarian Hyde,” Steinem told the outlet in an email.
Mitch McConnell was once one of Trump’s biggest supporters
There was a time when former president Donald Trump had no bigger supporter than Mitch McConnell. After all, the Republican leader had spent eight long years of Obama’s time in office waiting for another republican president.
Trump won by a landslide in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, which many pointed to as a deciding factor in McConnell’s choice to support the president adamantly. It was an especially politically savvy move considering that Trump is much more popular in Kentucky than McConnell, per The New Yorker. Given the many trials and tribulations of Trump’s presidency, McConnell’s close alliance with the former president is potentially risky for his legacy. “Mitch is kidding himself if he thinks he’ll be remembered for anything other than Trump,” a Republican consultant told the outlet. “He will be remembered as the Trump facilitator.”
The friendship between the pair was mutually beneficial. “Trump would not have been able to achieve his objectives without a strong Senate leader,” Karl Rove told The New York Times in 2021. McConnell’s contemporaries echoed similar sentiments. “Mitch McConnell was indispensable to Donald Trump’s success,” Senator Lindsey Graham noted, per the outlet. “Mitch McConnell working with Donald Trump did a hell of a job.”
Mitch McConnell turned on Trump
At first, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump seemed like great friends, but by the end of Trump’s presidency, their relationship was icy at best. Trump’s presidency ended on a low note with the fallout from the January 2021 Capitol riots. McConnell was present in the building at the time and witnessed the whole thing. While he had always been a steadfast ally of the Republican president, as Trump prepared to leave office, McConnell finally spoke out against him. “The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said in the aftermath of chaos, per CNBC.
“They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.” McConnell further implied that the president had incited the mob in the hopes that the Senate would not certify the 2020 presidential election results, per Vox. “[The mob] tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
He has been accused of sexism
If you spend as much time in the public eye as Mitch McConnell has, you’re bound to find yourself in the middle of a scandal or two. Back in 2017, McConnell found himself on the wrong side of Elizabeth Warren (and her supporters) when she spoke out about their relationship.
During the Senate hearing for Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, McConnell silenced Warren from reading a letter he did not agree with by barring her from the Senate floor. Interestingly enough, other Democratic senators, including Bernie Sanders, were allowed to read the same letter the following day and were not silenced by the majority leader, per HuffPost. “All I can say is, the next day, four men stood up and read exactly the same letter, and they all got to finish,” Warren said when speaking to “CBS This Morning.” She further iterated that McConnell had never been kind or welcoming to her despite her impressive position when she got up to speak. “I’ve spoken to him, but he has not spoken to me,” she told The Boston Globe. “I say hello to Mitch every chance I get, and he turns his head.”
Giving McConnell the benefit of the doubt, maybe he just doesn’t like Warren, but taking his voting record when it comes to women into account, shushing the senator while her male colleagues were allowed to speak doesn’t look good.
Mitch McConnell has his dream job
Mitch McConnell’s political career has been all about power. Since moving to D.C. after law school, McConnell has risen all the way from Capitol Hill intern to Senate Majority Leader. The logical next step then would be a run for the oval office, but it doesn’t seem like that’s on the radar for McConnell. As it turns out, the tenured senator has the job he’s always wanted. He’s been obsessed with the Senate since a young age. While in college, McConnell focused his studies on the history of the U.S. Senate. His final thesis examined the Compromise of 1850 and Kentucky Senator Henry Clay’s role in passing the landmark legislation, per PBS.
When speaking to The Atlantic in 2021, a colleague called McConnell the “master of the Senate.” a turn of phrase which has been used to describe Lyndon B. Johnson. According to the source, though, that’s where the similarities between McConnell and Johnson stop. Unlike Johnson, McConnell isn’t eager to leave the hill. “He’s thinking about the Senate, as opposed to Johnson, who was thinking about the presidency every day he was in.”
In short, McConnell is less interested in prestige or title and more interested in overall power. “Far more than other politicians, it really has been about simply the rise itself,” Alec MacGillis, author of The Cynic: The Political Education of Mitch McConnell, told Vox. “Staying in power as long as you can. Rising in the leadership ranks to the point where you are the leader of the body.”
Mitch McConnell and his wife have been accused of misappropriating funds
Mitch McConnell has faced his fair share of criticism, and as of 2019, his wife, Elaine Chao, is in the same boat. Choa came under fire when Politico reported that she had spent her time as transportation secretary advancing McConnell’s projects. While in power Chao reportedly used her position to fast track $78 million worth of projects for McConnell who was facing reelection at the time.
Chao was further criticized for using one of her staff as an intermediary between the department and McConnell, for the sake of advising him on grants and projects, a luxury not afforded other senators. The implication being that if McConnell could complete the expensive infrastructure projects, he stood a better chance at getting reelected. One project that Chao endorsed was a highway project that had been rejected twice before. McConnell denied any wrongdoing. But Chao’s got a reputation that precedes her when it comes to potentially unethical favors.
Weeks before the Politico article dropped, Chao was at the center of an international scandal when she was accused of involving her relatives in meetings with Chinese diplomats, which she attended as part of her job as secretary, per The New York Times.
Mitch McConnell’s house was vandalized
You don’t become the country’s highest-ranking senator without ruffling a few feathers. After a highly publicized and criticized delay in COVID-19 necessitated stimulus checks, Mitch McConnell found himself at the wrong end of some of his constituents in 2021 when his Kentucky home was vandalized. A frustrated voter tagged the Senator’s front door in the middle of the night, with the words “[where’s] my money?” A few feet away the anonymous assailant[s] added “Mitch kills poor.” Following the crime, groups of protesters also appeared outside of McConnell’s home, per Fox19.
McConnell did not take kindly to the criticism. “I’ve spent my career fighting for the First Amendment and defending peaceful protest,” he said in a statement following the incident, per The New York Times. “I appreciate every Kentuckian who has engaged in the democratic process whether they agree with me or not.” That’s pretty much where the goodwill stopped though. “Vandalism and the politics of fear have no place in our society,” he continued. “My wife and I have never been intimidated by this toxic playbook. We just hope our neighbors in Louisville aren’t too inconvenienced by this radical tantrum.”
Is Mitch McConnell the descendant of slave owners?
Every politician has a few skeletons in their closet, Mitch McConnell included. A 2019 report by NBC revealed that McConnell is directly descended from southern slave owners. According to the report, two of his great-great-grandfathers owned slaves. The report was released weeks after McConnell publicly disavowed any plans for federal reparations. “I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago, when none of us currently living are responsible, is a good idea,” he said. “We’ve tried to deal with our original sin of slavery by fighting a civil war, bypassing landmark civil rights legislation. We’ve elected an African American president.”
Following a Senate meeting, reporters asked McConnell about a recently released report, and he more or less dodged the question by shedding light on a political rival. “I find myself once again in the same position as President Obama,” he said. “We both opposed reparations and we both are the descendants of slave-owners.” McConnell was referring to a 2007 Baltimore Sun expose that claimed Obama was descended from slave owners on his mother’s side, which doesn’t have a lot to do with McConnell but okay.
The Truth About Mitch McConnell’s Relationship With Donald Trump
Being in former President Donald Trump’s inner circle is a bit like Heidi Klum’s catchphrase on “Project Runway” — one day you’re in, the next day you’re out. During his presidency, Senator Mitch McConnell seemed like he was Trump’s number one fan (sometimes), but what is their relationship really like? Is McConnell heading to Mar-a-Lago for weekend golf trips with the erstwhile POTUS? Or are they now nemeses?
Now that Trump is no longer the president, it looks like the relationship between the two politicians has changed somewhat. To set the stage, right now it looks like Trump could be considering running for president again in 2024. Meanwhile, McConnell is still in the Senate, but since the Republican party is no longer in the majority, he’s hard at work to make sure they still have some power. Also — there was that whole insurrection and impeachment business. So are they still working together?
Here’s what we could find out.
Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump may not be planning any get-together s
Over the weekend, former President Donald Trump railed against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, accusing him of endorsing a senate candidate Trump does not like and calling him an “Old Crow.” For his part, McConnell sorta shrugged off the insult, calling it an “honor.”
“Actually, it’s quite an honor,” McConnell told CNN. “Old Crow is Henry Clay’s favorite bourbon.” (Clay is a former senator and hero of McConnell’s).
But this is not the first time that Trump has come for McConnell. Even though McConnell didn’t vote to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial in February, Trump apparently didn’t think the senator was strong enough in his support. After McConnell released a statement condemning Trump’s behavior, Trump released a statement of his own, calling McConnell, “a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” according to NBC. Then, at a donor event in April, Trump called the Kentuckian a “dumb son of a b*tch” and a “stone cold loser,” NBC reported. Not that McConnell wants anything to do with Trump anymore either, as he has made clear in recent statements.
So yeah, not exactly besties.
Mitch McConnell wants to move on from Trump
Now, everyone knows by now that former President Donald Trump isn’t one to just let things go — especially not when he feels like he’s been betrayed. So, it’s not exactly what you’d call shocking that once Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had their falling out, the ex-POTUS did not take a “live and let live” attitude about it. Meanwhile, McConnell seems more than ready to just move on.
In an interview with Fox News (via Vanity Fair), McConnell seemed to suggest that he wanted the Republican party to move on from Trump. “We’re looking to the future, not the past. And if you want to see the future of the Republican Party, watch [Senator] Tim Scott,” McConnell said. “He’s the future.” But letting go of the past doesn’t appear to be Trump’s style. He has called McConnell, per CNN, “very bad for the Republican party” — plausibly because McConnell hasn’t budged when it comes to blaming Trump for the January 6 riot, and has blocked some of Trump’s attempts to get rid of Republicans he doesn’t like, such as Senator Lisa Murkowski.
However, according to some September reporting, Trump is taking a bit more action than McConnell when it comes to defeating his rival.
Donald Trump is out for blood
The Wall Street Journal reported that not only does former President Donald Trump hate Mitch McConnell’s stinky guts, but he is actively recruiting allies to get McConnell kicked out of his leadership position. At the moment, McConnell is the HRIC (Head Republican In Charge) in the Senate, otherwise known as the Senate Minority Leader. And McConnell has been the GOP’s top dog for a record eight terms. And this is the guy that Trump is attempting to oust.
Unfortunately for Trump, it looks like this is a lost cause. According to the WSJ article, even Trump’s best buddies in the senate, like Tommy Tuberville and John Kennedy, don’t think that getting rid of McConnell is anywhere in the realm of possibility.
At the end of the day, it looks as though the relationship between McConnell and Trump was more of a backscratching situation than actual friendship. And now that Trump is no longer in power (for now) McConnell is ready to move on — and take the rest of his Republicans with him. So assuming Trump’s scheme to depose McConnell fails, what will his next move be? A lawsuit? A fiery Fox News interview? Whatever it is we’re settling in for a long, long feud.
Inside Trump’s Scathing Letter About Mitch McConnell
In the weeks following the Jan. 6, 2021 right-wing insurrection at the Capitol — which many believe was directly incited by the former president Donald Trump despite the February 2021 Senate vote to acquit him at his impeachment trial — and Trump’s subsequent permanent ban from Twitter and other social media sites, the ex-president has since taken up a new form of expressing what he once did through 280 character tweets: writing letters.
Trump’s switch to a more traditional mode of communication, which Slate pointed out, albeit somewhat jokingly, might have been borne out of the realization that “if done a certain way, is really just a collection of tweets,” has by all appearances been taken up by Trump with a renewed verve. Since his text-based pivot, Trump has since used the old-school medium at an ever-increasing rate, like his letter directly sent from his new domicile in Florida to resign from the Screen Actors Guild in early February 2021, as well as endorse former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders for her intended 2022 gubernatorial campaign in Alabama. Now, Trump’s latest example of wielding a pen is making headlines for a more informal purpose: castigating one-time Trump loyalist Senator Mitch McConnell.
So what exactly did Trump have to say about the Republican lawmaker in his letter? How did it go public? And, more importantly: is it further proof of a schism developing within the Republican party in a post-Trump America?
Trump called Mitch McConnell a ‘political hack’
Like many of Donald Trump’s recent self-authored screeds, the letter the former president wrote and posted to textually attack Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell following Trump’s impeachment acquittal in the Senate was made public through the use of Trump’s Save America PAC, a political action committee the ex-commander-in-chief formed shortly after stepping down from office. Posted on the Save America PAC’s website on Feb. 16, 2021, as Business Insider noted, the statement was ostensibly a criticism of weak leadership within the Republican party, but singled out McConnell specifically as his exemplar in a paragraphs-long indictment.
“The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political ‘leaders’ like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm,” the statement read. “McConnell’s dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse.”
Other sections of the letter pulled no punches, going as far as to insult McConnell’s character. “Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again,” Trump wrote. He also made unkind comments towards members of McConnell’s family. Nasty as that may seem, according to one insider close to Trump, the originally intended draft apparently contained much, much worse.
Donald Trump’s first draft for the Mitch McConnell letter was vicious
As Politico and The New York Times reported shortly after Donald Trump’s letter excoriating Mitch McConnell went live on Trump’s Save America PAC site, both news sources were told by Republican insiders who wished to remain anonymous that the letter was first intended to be more vicious in its delivery and tone. Per Politico, a person who was present during the initial drafting process disclosed that earlier versions mocked the former Senate Majority Leader’s appearance, including lines “about [McConnell] having too many chins but not enough smarts.” The insider also clarified that Trump senior aide Jason Miller was responsible for the final published draft.
The schism between McConnell and Trump began in early 2021, mere hours before the Capitol Hill insurrection, when McConnell publicly denounced Trump’s repeated and baseless claims that Trump’s election loss to President Biden in November 2020 was due to wide-spread election fraud. Though McConnell later voted against Trump’s impeachment, he continued to call Trump’s purported incitement of the Capitol riot one which “President Trump bears moral responsibility” for in front members of Congress during the Senate phase of the trial, as well as in an op-ed McConnell wrote for The Wall Street Journal. But despite the unduly harsh tone of the final letter, some Republicans are placing the onus on McConnell, not Trump.
Despite Trump’s harsh letter, other Republicans are criticizing McConnell
After Donald Trump’s open letter to Mitch McConnell went live in February 2021, CNN reported that the more general, more impersonal sentiment behind the letter — that McConnell’s behavior and public denouncements of Trump within the first two months of 2021 are detrimental to the party — are shared, to a degree, by other profile GOP lawmakers. The news network cited a February 16 appearance on Fox News by Senator Lindsey Graham, in which the South Carolina legislator and noted Trump devotee criticized McConnell for not keeping in line with the pro-Trump contingent of the party.
During the segment, Graham acknowledged the former political partnership between McConnell and Trump, the former of whom helped push many of Trump’s conservative policies, and the latter of whom helped appoint conservative judges to the Supreme Court to aid in pushing along GOP-led legislation, per The Times. Shortly after, however, Graham said that they’re “at each other’s throat[s],” stating concern that it would affect midterm Senate and House elections in 2022.
“What I would say to Senator McConnell: I know Trump can be a handful, but he is the most dominant figure in the Republican Party,” Graham added, cautioning McConnell’s palpable rift from his former ally. “We don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump. If you don’t get that, you’re just not looking.”