President Donald Trump was taken aback the first time he encountered Senate Majority Mitch McConnell's coldblooded nature, according to a new book.
Former White House aide Cliff Sims recounted when the president met with McConnell and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in February 2017, shortly after his inauguration, to discuss their legislative agenda, reported Politico Magazine.
The magazine published an excerpt from Sims' new book, Team of Vipers, that described an offhand comment by McConnell that caught Trump's interest as the meeting wrapped up.
“We’re going to have to keep everyone together," McConnell said, "because we’re going to be doing this without any Democratic votes."
This seemed to surprise Trump, but McConnell firmly told him that he did not expect a single Democratic vote to repeal Obamacare.
“What about Joe Manchin?” Trump asked, but McConnell said the West Virginia Democrat would "absolutely not" vote with the GOP to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Trump insisted he had a good relationship with Manchin, and Sims said McConnell's comments seemed to be a personal challenge to the president's belief in his powers of persuasion.
“Mr. President,” McConnell said, “he’ll never be with us when it counts. I’ve seen this time and time again. We’re going to do everything in our power to beat him when he comes up for reelection in 2018.”
Trump was surprised by the Senate leader's remarks, and he asked if McConnell was sure Manchin should be defeated.
“Absolutely, Mr. President,” McConnell said. “We’re going to crush him like a grape.”
Sims said the atmosphere briefly grew tense inside the Roosevelt Room, and the former aide compared the moment as the scene in Goodfellas when Ray Liotta calls Joe Pesci funny -- but then Trump reacted and broke the tension.
“This guy’s mean as a snake!” Trump said, and everyone in the room burst out laughing.
Trump patted the majority leader on the back, and told McConnell to go after Manchin if that's what he believed was necessary.
“I do,” McConnell said.