McConnell and Trump aides have been discussing an endorsement of the former president

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WASHINGTON — Top advisers to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former President Donald Trump have engaged in behind-the-scenes conversations for months that have included efforts to secure an endorsement of the former president by McConnell, sources involved in those discussions said.

The conversations, first reported by The New York Times, have been held between longtime McConnell adviser and consigliere Josh Holmes and Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita. The two men go back decades in the GOP campaign trenches, and their discussions on the topic began in earnest in early January.

The back-channeling comes as Trump closes in on the 2024 Republican presidential nomination and gains endorsements on Capitol Hill. McConnell, R-Ky., whose tense relationship with the former president is well known, is the last remaining member of the congressional GOP leadership who has not publicly endorsed him.

McConnell’s office declined to comment.

McConnell and Trump haven’t spoken since before Jan. 6, 2021, and had a frosty relationship even before it collapsed entirely over the Capitol attack. Since then, Trump has routinely mocked both McConnell and his wife and former Trump Cabinet official, Elaine Chao, in both political and personal terms.

Although he voted to acquit Trump on impeachment charges of inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, McConnell delivered a scathing speech calling Trump "practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day." In the February 2021 speech, he added that despite the Senate acquittal, Trump was not immune from criminal or civil liability for his actions.

“I recently reread it. I stand by what I said,” McConnell told reporters last month.

The month after the 2022 elections, McConnell blamed Trump for crucial GOP losses, saying the former president had alienated independent voters and moderate Republicans by creating the impression that the party was “sort of nasty and tended toward chaos.” He said Trump’s stature had “diminished” as a result.

But Trump has maintained his iron grip over GOP voters, which has helped the ex-president expand his influence within the Senate Republican caucus as McConnell's firm grasp has loosened. As recently as this month, McConnell championed a deal to toughen border security and Trump successfully pushed Republicans to kill it, hoping to wield the border as a political weapon against President Joe Biden in November.

At his weekly news conferences, McConnell has repeatedly refused to comment on Trump, using a refrain that he won’t weigh in on the GOP presidential primary or its candidates.

Still, McConnell has long held out that he would endorse the eventual Republican presidential nominee — even if it were Trump.

Trump referred to the possibility of McConnell backing him during a town hall with Laura Ingraham of Fox News last week, saying that while McConnell will “probably” endorse him, he’s not sure he can work with the Kentuckian in a potential second term.

McConnell's Senate term expires at the end of 2026. His current term as Republican leader expires at the end of 2024. He has not said whether he'll run for the post again, although it's still early.

McConnell’s GOP skeptics say they wouldn’t be surprised if he follows through on endorsing Trump, but they doubt that the relationship between the two men can be salvaged. Trump, in particular, is known for holding grudges.

“Would you say someone has a relationship if their interactions are purely transactional?” said one Senate Republican aide.

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