Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the country's most powerful Republican elected officials, criticized GOP President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday for tweeting that flag burners should be jailed or stripped of their citizenship.
"The Supreme Court has held that that activity is a protected First Amendment right," McConnell told reporters, the Hill reported. "In this country, we have a long history of protecting unpleasant speech."
McConnell cited the Supreme Court's 1989 decision in Texas v. Johnson, which held flag burning to be a protected form of free speech.
"No act of speech is so obnoxious that it merits tampering with our First Amendment. Our Constitution, and our country, is stronger than that," McConnell wrote in a 2006 statement opposing an amendment that would ban desecrating the United States flag. "Surely we are strong enough to withstand a few degenerate attention-seekers. Ultimately, people like that pose little harm to our country. But tinkering with our First Amendment might."
According to Politico, McConnell also took a swing at Trump's repeated (and totally unfounded) claims that he would have won the popular vote against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton "if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally." McConnell called the claims "totally irrelevant."
While McConnell's criticism of Trump may hint at brewing discontent with the president-elect's tendency to fly off the rails, in other ways Republicans are rallying behind the real estate mogul. GOP officials have largely supported Trump's picks of conservative Cabinet members and White House staffers, with even opponents like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush praising some of his selections.