As one of the great obstructionists in U.S. political history, Mitch McConnell has made peace with being the heel of the Senate: In recent years, he’s embraced such nicknames as Darth Vader, the Grim Reaper, and “Cocaine Mitch,” going as far as selling T-shirts of that last, most ridiculous one. But 34 years into his career on the hill, McConnell has found an alter ego he can’t stand: “Moscow Mitch.”
The name began to take off on social media, in op-eds, and on Morning Joe after the Senate majority leader blocked two bills that would boost election security, in part by requiring campaigns to disclose any offers of foreign assistance to the intelligence community and the Federal Election Commission. McConnell, who never met a campaign-finance restriction he liked, defended himself by citing his hesitancy to increase federal oversight over state elections and championing the restrictions put in place that increased security for the midterms.
Even with his rationale, the timing was off: McConnell’s block came the day after the Mueller testimony — in which the former special counsel said he feared election interference was the “new normal” — and the day of a Senate Intelligence Committee report stating that Russia hacked into the polls in 2016 to an extent much greater than previously known. Fueled by his consistent downplaying of the Trump-Russia scandal and the special counsel’s investigation, the nickname took off.
On the Senate floor on Monday, McConnell spoke out against the “hyperventilating hacks” who’ve accused him of promoting Russian interests, comparing his treatment to “modern-day McCarthyism.” The Kentucky senator said he would not be bullied into supporting the anti-interference bills and added: “Over the last several days I was called unpatriotic, un-American, and essentially treasonous by a couple of left-wing pundits on the basis of bold-faced lies,” McConnell said. “I was accused of aiding and abetting the very man I’ve singled out as an adversary and opposed for nearly 20 years, Vladimir Putin.”
As most middle-schoolers or Trump targets might know, McConnell’s request to stop being called by the name he doesn’t like was unsuccessful: The nickname appears to be growing, with #MoscowMitchMcTreason and #MoscowMitchUnAmericanTraitor gaining traction on Twitter. Hoping to come to his defense, Trump did the best he could on Tuesday: “Mitch McConnell is a man that knows less about Russia and Russian influence than even Donald Trump,” the president told reporters. “And I know nothing.”