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The Back Channel Talks to Secure McConnell’s Endorsement of Trump

U.S.The Back Channel Talks to Secure McConnell’s Endorsement of Trump

Donald J. Trump and Mitch McConnell haven’t said a word to each other since December 2020.

But people close to both men are working behind the scenes to make bygones of the enmity between them and to pave the way for a critical endorsement of the former president by the highest-ranking Republican holdout so far, according to three people familiar with both teams’ perspectives who were not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Assuming it happens, Mr. McConnell’s endorsement of Mr. Trump would have enormous symbolic value to the former president, giving him the embrace of the last holdout of Republican power whose rejection of him represents the final patch of unconquered territory in Mr. Trump’s march to the party’s 2024 presidential nomination.

The support of Mr. McConnell, the Republican senator from Kentucky and the chamber’s minority leader, would also carry huge value in signaling to an entire class of donors and Trump-resistant Republican elites that it’s acceptable to get behind the party’s expected nominee — no matter their misgivings. This is no small thing, given that Mr. Trump has been forced to spend more than $50 million already on legal bills, and the groups supporting him are expected to be vastly outspent by President Biden’s operation.

The secretive conversations between the Trump and McConnell camps have been happening between key advisers to both men who have known and worked with each other for more than 20 years: Chris LaCivita, a top campaign adviser to Mr. Trump, and Josh Holmes, a confidant and longtime political strategist for Mr. McConnell.

Since around the time of the Iowa caucuses last month, Mr. LaCivita and Mr. Holmes started making more of a concerted effort to trade information — particularly about Mr. Trump’s Senate endorsements — and to create an opening for a more productive working relationship.

Both Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell were made aware of this back channel between the two camps. By late January, Mr. Trump had told people close to him that he expected Mr. McConnell would endorse him.

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