DONALD Trump has urged Republican senators to ditch minority leader Mitch McConnel in the wake of his increasingly vocal condemnation of the former president.
The two Republican heavyweights have been engaged in a war of words since the Mr Trump's final week in office.
McConnell holds his former ally “practically and morally responsible” for the storming of the US Capitol on January 6.
Seldom one to shy away from conflict, the real-estate mogul has hit back, making his most extensive political statement since leaving office:
"The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political 'leaders' like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm," Mr Trump said in a statement.
"Mitch is a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again."
Suffice to say, the gloves are off.
The showdown will leave some Republicans with a stark ultimatum: to side with Mr McConnell, a predictable and seasoned republican grandee, or with the bellicose and politically unanchored Donald Trump.
While for some the choice will be simple, the 75 million votes that the ex-POTUS bagged in the last election will be a difficult factor to ignore in the political landscape going forward.
Once it became clear that Mr Trump wouldn’t be impeached – after the two thirds majority needed for a conviction failed to materialise – Mr McConnell let rip on his erstwhile ally.
He described Mr Trump’s actions in the build-up to the siege – including the rally where the then-president goaded his supporters into marching on Congress – as "a disgraceful dereliction of duty."
"These criminals were carrying his banners. Hanging his flags. And screaming their loyalty to him," McConnell said.
Returning fire, Mr Trump blamed the former senate majority leader – who pushed through much of his administration’s legislation – for losing control of the upper house.
He also took credit for Mr McConnell's re-election as senator for Kentucky State – a position the 78-year-old has held since 1984.
"My only regret is that McConnell 'begged' for my strong support and endorsement before the great people of Kentucky in the 2020 election, and I gave it to him," Mr Trump said.
"Without my endorsement, McConnell would have lost, and lost badly."
In another bout of scathing personal attacks, Mr Trump honed in on Mr McConnell's wife, Taiwan-born Elaine Chow, who served as transportation secretary under Mr Trump until the 6 January Capitol assault, when she resigned in protest.
"McConnell has no credibility on China because of his family's substantial Chinese business holdings," Mr Trump wrote.
Now residing on his Mar-a-Lago estate Florida, Mr Trump has been conspicuously silent in the leadup to his impeachment trial, which led to some speculation about what role, if any, he plans to take in mainstream American politics.
His spat with Mr McConnell has clarified things, as he took the opportunity to claim his continued stewardship of the Republican party.
He has threatened to use his vast – albeit unofficial – political clout to unseat any Republican candidates that don’t support his agenda.
He said: "If Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again."
"Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First."
"This is a big moment for our country, and we cannot let it pass by using third rate 'leaders' to dictate our future!" he added.
The next national election is in November 2022.