Margaret Brennan presses McConnell over Trump reelection, Ukraine aid

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CBS News anchor Margaret Brennan on Sunday pressed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on how he plans to handle former President Trump’s opposing views if he is reelected, given the two Republicans’ differences on Ukraine aid.

Brennan, speaking with McConnell in an interview airing Sunday on “Face the Nation,” pointed to CBS polling that found 79 percent of self-identified Republicans said the source of information they most trust on Ukraine and Russia is Trump. She then asked McConnell, a staunch supporter of U.S. aid to Ukraine, how he plans to counter this.

“Look, what I want to do and what I’m focused on is not the presidential race but getting the Senate back. I’ve been the majority leader, I’ve been the minority leader, majority is better,” McConnell answered.

Brennan noted her question is not about the race, but “persuading public opinion,” to which McConnell said, ” Let me finish. I think the single most important thing I can do is make sure my successor is the majority leader, no matter how the presidential election comes out.

“I haven’t been entirely satisfied with this administration. I think the fact that our nominee basically decided not to continue whipping people against the package was a good sign, and I’m going to be advocating increasing the defense budget no matter who gets elected and preparing ourselves for the long term, which is China, Russia, and Iran,” he continued, discussing later the Biden administration’s budget for defense.

The Kentucky Republican was referencing Congress’s recently passed foreign aid bill that includes funding for Ukraine, Israel, global humanitarian aid, and U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific.

Trump has expressed hesitation about the U.S.’s continued aid to Ukraine, arguing support for the country is not a vital American interest. In February, he directed GOP senators to vote against a bipartisan package that included border security provisions and would have unlocked aid for Ukraine.

Brennan then asked McConnell how he will “stop” Trump’s vow to quickly end the Russia-Ukraine war and cease funding to Kyiv.

“What I’m doing is trying to change the Senate so that we have a majority and trying to produce a majority of the majority of the importance of defense spending, no matter who wins the presidential election,” McConnell responded.  

“I can’t control that. I have some influence here in the Senate. I intend to use it no matter who gets elected president to increase our defense budget and get ready for the challenges that we have ahead of us, rather than just looking backward,” he added.

Brennan interjected, suggesting McConnell might need to be a “firewall” against the GOP and its potential leader.

“I’ve been willing to do that. I had something to do with changing opinion in the Senate on this issue, and I think a lot more of my members now understand the importance of it,” the senator said.

The two later discussed McConnell’s opposition to the isolationist movement, and Brennan suggested he might share a view that is closer to President Biden than Trump.

“You’re more aligned with Joe Biden than Donald Trump in your view of America’s role in the world, it would seem,” Brennan said.

McConnell responded by pointing to his differences with the Biden administration’s policies.

Despite McConnell endorsing Trump’s reelection bid, longtime tensions remain between the two Republicans.

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