WASHINGTON — Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell reaffirmed their alliance of necessity in a raucous Rose Garden news conference Monday that also underscored their sharp differences. The garrulous president claimed they were longtime friends now closer than ever; the reserved Senate Republican leader allowed that they share goals and speak often.

Trump and McConnell appeared side by side for more than a half-hour, the president tossing off answers – sometimes mini-speeches – on all topics, while McConnell, disciplined as always, delivered brief, scholarly explanations about the legislative process and the risks to their party of nominating candidates who can’t win.

At various points, the president denounced the Russia-Trump campaign investigation, lauded himself for his record on judicial nominations, argued wrongly that “it took years for the Reagan administration to get taxes done,” and claimed that past presidents hadn’t necessarily contacted bereaved family members to mourn lost service members – before backtracking on that assertion when pressed.

In front of a hastily assembled White House press corps, Trump began his remarks by saluting McConnell and, as he described it, their longstanding friendship.

“We’re probably now closer than ever before,” the president proclaimed as McConnell grinned stiffly at his side. “My relationship with this gentleman is outstanding.”

Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, over the weekend declared all-out political war on the GOP establishment, including McConnell and incumbent Republican senators Bannon has deemed unsupportive of the president’s agenda. Trump said earlier Monday during a cabinet meeting that he “can understand fully how Steve Bannon feels” and even that some in the party “should be ashamed of themselves.” But he later suggested he might try to talk Bannon out of challenging some Senate Republicans whom McConnell has pledged to defend.

Trump’s change in tone suggested that McConnell, whose allies regularly battle Bannon, might have talked Trump into intervening.

McConnell took the opportunity to lay out, for the public and for the audience of one standing beside him, why he and GOP allies work to protect Senate incumbents. He argued that some conservative Republicans nominated in the 2010 and 2012 cycles didn’t win because they weren’t able to “appeal to a broader electorate in the general election.”

“You have to nominate people who can actually win, because winners make policy and losers go home,” McConnell said.

Trump briefly pursed his lips as McConnell made those remarks, then took a question on another topic.

Bannon, meanwhile, didn’t back down. “Senator McConnell and the GOP Establishment have ‘sown the wind – now they reap the whirlwind,”‘ he said.

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