03:24 - Source: CNN
Mitch McConnell releases statement endorsing Trump

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell announced Wednesday he will support Donald Trump for the presidency, a move that comes more than three years after they have last spoken and after the Kentucky Republican pointedly blamed Trump for the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

“It is abundantly clear that former President Trump has earned the requisite support of Republican voters to be our nominee for President of the United States,” McConnell said in a statement. “It should come as no surprise that as nominee, he will have my support.”

McConnell’s announcement came just minutes after Trump’s final substantive primary challenger – former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley – said she would leave the race the morning after Super Tuesday, in which Trump dominated the races across the country.

McConnell’s support came after lengthy discussions for months between Chris LaCivita from the Trump campaign and longtime McConnell confidant Josh Holmes about opening communications between the two camps and - maybe most importantly - getting on the same page about the US Senate races this year, according to a source familiar.

McConnell, who hasn’t spoken to Trump since December 2020, didn’t speak to him before he issued his endorsement, according to another source familiar with the matter. The source said that LaCivita and Holmes spoke instead.

The public support from McConnell, who announced last week he would step down as GOP leader at the end of the year, also came after his other top Republican senators have endorsed Trump. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber who is running to replace McConnell, endorsed Trump earlier this month. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, another possible McConnell successor, backed Trump after he won the New Hampshire primary.

Thune, who has been vocal in the past about his concerns over how Trump will fare with suburban voters, told CNN that he believes the Republican ticket will deliver a united message.

“I think we got to, gonna have a united ticket going into the fall. and we’ll all go out and all help aggressively win those people in suburban areas, independent voters,” he told CNN. “It’s now a – it’s a straight up one on one.”

Other congressional Republicans are also setting aside past concerns over Trump as the party’s nominee and rallying behind him.

Rep. John Duarte, a California Republican who represents a district Joe Biden won last cycle, told CNN that he’s focused on who he is running against and that he plans to endorse Trump.

“I think Biden’s the opponent and that’s good for me. It’s easy to run against Joe Biden these days and that’s what we’ll be doing,” he told CNN when asked if Trump at the top of the ticket could have implications for tough races down ballot.

Duarte added that he “probably won’t” campaign with Trump but that he doesn’t think he needs to distance himself from him and that he’ll be endorsing the former president.

“I will be, he’s our Republican nominee for president and we have to stop the Biden failures,” he told CNN. “So many people in my district of all, of all backgrounds, want to see these policies ended. That we need to drill American oil, we need to get water on the farms, we need to get affordability and opportunity back in America.”

And GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, who represents a Biden won Pennsylvania district, declined to say whether he would be endorsing Trump.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Dana Bash and Sam Fossum contributed to this report.