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The New York Times adds an intriguing new layer to Trump’s feud with Mitch McConnell

We’ve already heard it’s about health care. Turns out there’s a Russia angle too.

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

It’s been clear for weeks now that President Donald Trump is unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And in public, Trump has framed his unhappiness in terms of the legislative agenda, complaining in tweets about the Senate’s failure to pass a health bill, tax reform, or an infrastructure program.

But a juicy new report from the New York Times’s Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin suggests there’s another, familiar reason for Trump’s irritation: the Russia scandal, and specifically, McConnell’s failure to protect him from investigations into it.

It’s already been reported that in a tense phone call between Trump and McConnell on August 9, Trump was angry about the health care bill’s failure.

However, Burns and Martin add a new key detail — that Trump “was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.”

Yet again, it seems, the president of the United States is intimating in private conversations with other government officials that investigations that could incriminate him or his associates should be bottled up — at a time when he’s already reportedly under investigation for obstruction of justice.

Trump has used the “protect” language before on Twitter in relation to the Russia investigation. For instance, he tweeted the following on July 23:

In his criticism of McConnell specifically, Trump is likely referring to the Senate committees investigating the Russia scandal.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has already held several high-profile hearings on the topic this year, getting testimony from fired FBI Director Jim Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among other officials. Lately, the Senate Judiciary Committee has also been stirring, pushing for documents from Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the scandal as “fake news” and claimed that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government. But he certainly keeps acting like he thinks he needs protection from the unfolding investigations, as we’ve seen in his firing of Comey, his complaints about Sessions’s recusal from the Russia probe — and now his reported private comments to McConnell.