Right-wing podcaster Steve Bannon attacked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the other GOP senators who visited Ukraine Saturday to meet with the country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky—saying they “must be turfed out.”
McConnell’s surprise visit to Kyiv came as Russian President Vladimir Putin continue’s his internationally condemned and unprovoked assault on the Eastern European nation. After the full-scale Russian invasion began on February 24, Congress and the White House have largely come together in a bipartisan way to support Ukraine as it defends itself against Moscow’s aggression.
“Look @ these smiling buffoons—our nation is being destroyed and they go kiss the ass of a promoter who refuses to take back one penny from the Ukrainian Oligarchs,” wrote Bannon, who served as the chief executive of former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and then as a White House strategist for part of 2017, in a Saturday Gettr post.
“All 4 of these ‘Senators’ must be turfed out—any Senator running that supports McConnell must go,” he added. “$40 billion of your money.”
Bannon’s mention of $40 billion was a reference to a military aid package that was already passed by the House of Representatives. The aid is expected to pass through the Senate next week, after GOP Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky held it up this week. (A video of the late Senator John McCain saying that Paul was working for Putin garnered renewed attention after Paul’s move.)
GOP senators John Barrasso of Wyoming, a member of McConnell’s leadership team and the Foreign Relations Committee; John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Intelligence Committee; and Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on the Intelligence and Appropriations Committees, joined the top Senate Republican on the trip. Zelensky welcomed the lawmakers, saying their visit showed “a strong signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine from the United States Congress and the American people.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, made a similar unannounced visit to meet with Zelensky in Ukraine joined by fellow Democratic lawmakers on May 1. First lady Jill Biden also visited Ukraine and met with Zelensky’s wife on Mother’s Day last Sunday. President Joe Biden in late March traveled to Poland and visited the border of Ukraine, meeting with Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war.
“Helping Ukraine is not an instance of mere philanthropy—it bears directly on America’s national security and vital interests that Russia’s naked aggression not succeed and carries significant costs,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, earlier this week. “If Ukraine fails to repel Russian aggression, there is no question that the threat to American and European security will grow.”
The senator also expressed his full support for the military assistance to the Eastern European nation.
“I strongly support the next package of lethal military assistance, which the House has passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority,” McConnell said Thursday from the Senate floor. “I hope the Senate can reach an agreement to consider and pass this legislation today. The Ukrainians need it. We need to do it today.”
Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican and staunch Trump supporter, took aim at McConnell’s trip to Kyiv in a series of Twitter posts on Saturday morning. The GOP congresswoman questioned Pelosi and McConnell visiting the country “without bullet proof vests/helmets or any fear from dangers of war, while they eagerly give billions to fund their proxy war w/ Russia.”
“If the conditions in Ukraine were so grave to warrant the U.S. sending $54 billion, then our highest ranking leaders would not be able to go,” the Republican lawmaker wrote.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican who is also a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, slammed Greene’s assessment.
“Notice MTG has never served, doesn’t understand threat environments, has no clue what she’s talking about, and supports Russias war on Ukraine. She is a chickenhawk,” wrote Kinzinger, who served in the Iraq War. “Oh and she a performer. Literally doesn’t care about policy.”
“I never wore a vest in Iraq unless i flew. Again, she’s a dummy,” the GOP congressman added.
Despite the opposition from some Republicans such as Bannon, Paul and Greene, the majority of GOP voters remain supportive of assisting Ukrainians in their fight against Russia. Polling released on May 10 by Pew Research Center showed that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of Republicans strongly or somewhat support sending military equipment and weapons to Ukraine. More than a third (34 percent) even said the U.S. is not providing enough support to Ukraine, compared to only 17 percent who said the level was “too much.”
Newsweek reached out to McConnell’s spokesperson for comment.
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