Mitch McConnell cautious on GOP's odds of taking Senate in midterms, rebukes threats to FBI

Quinlan Bentley
Cincinnati Enquirer

FLORENCE, Ky. – Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday downplayed his party's chances of regaining control of the Senate in November and criticized threats and acts of violence toward law enforcement.

The Kentucky Republican laid out his expectations for the GOP retaking Congress in the 2022 midterms and whether Democrats can hold on to their slim majority in the 50-50 Senate, where Vice President Kamala Harris has a key tie-breaking vote.

"I think there's probably a greater likelihood the House flips than the Senate," McConnell said during a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce event. "Senate races are just different. They're statewide, candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome."

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The comments came as the Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell aligned group, bought $28 million worth of airtime to support Senate candidate J.D. Vance in Ohio. Recent polls have shown Democrats leading in Senate races in Pennsylvania and Georgia.

McConnell offers rebuke of violence toward FBI, law enforcement

McConnell said attacks on law enforcement agencies are "completely unacceptable."

"I think attacks on law enforcement agencies is completely unacceptable," McConnell told reporters during a visit to Greater Cincinnati on Thursday. "Acts of violence are not protected by the First Amendment and people who engage in acts of violence need to pay the price for it," McConnell told reporters, one week after an armed man wearing body armor tried to gain entry to Cincinnati's FBI headquarters.

"Hopefully all people in public life will push back against that," McConnell said when asked about growing threats and anti-law enforcement rhetoric following the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Republicans odds of taking the House were higher than their chances of prevailing in the Senate in the midterms.

McConnell declined to comment on the search. "I've been following, like everyone else, the events in various courts and until we reach some conclusion, I really don't have anything to add," he said.

A federal magistrate in Florida heard arguments Thursday about whether to unseal the affidavit that justified the unprecedented search of the former president’s estate.

Ricky Shiffer, 42, tried last week to breach the visitor screening area of the field office, police said, before leading officers on a chase north on Interstate 71. Shiffer was shot and killed by authorities in Clinton County after a standoff that lasted hours, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

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Authorities have not released a possible motive for the attempted breach in Cincinnati. The incident came a day after FBI director Christopher Wray warned of online threats against agents and the Justice Department after the agency served a search warrant on Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

A Truth Social account believed to have belonged to Shiffer in recent days had referenced the search at Mar-a-Lago. One of the last posts appeared that day: "If you don't hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I."

USA TODAY and the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.