WASHINGTON, D.C. — Retiring U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe’s relationship with U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin hit a low point after Mullin’s unauthorized attempt to visit Afghanistan last year. Now Inhofe has misgivings about the frontrunner to win his seat in November. 

“Markwayne and I, we have problems,” Inhofe said in an interview with The Frontier at his Washington D.C. office.  

Inhofe’s and Mullin’s relationship has ebbed and flowed over the past decade they have served together in D.C., Inhofe said. During Mullin’s early years in office, Inhofe was one of Mullin’s strongest defenders against criticisms from the late U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, he said. 

But Mullin’s efforts to enter Afghanistan with large amounts of cash to rescue an American woman and her four children in August 2021 left Inhofe unhappy.

“My fear was the safety of our acting military,” Inhofe said. “Most of our military was gone at that point. Just the individuals who were (still there), our allies and friends, (his trip) could have resulted in (the Taliban) punishing them and I didn’t want that to happen.” 

Mullin claimed his unsuccessful trip to Afghanistan was supposed to be a “rescue mission” following America’s botched withdrawal from the country. But Inhofe saw it as an attention-seeking stunt. Mullin, who has no military background, could have endangered the lives of troops on the ground, Inhofe said.

“Don’t do some of these things just to get attention,” he said. “Get serious. Try to make us the strongest (nation) with the best transportation system. Those are the two things that I would advise him to seriously look at.”

Inhofe acknowledged that Mullin, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump and handily took first in the primary, will likely be the guy to replace him in the Senate.

Mullin received 43% of the vote in the primary compared to his next closest competitor former Speaker of the Oklahoma state House T.W. Shannon, who received only 17%.

Inhofe’s favored successor, his former chief of staff Luke Holland, finished in fourth place with 11% of the vote in the June GOP primary, exceeding expectations based on the polling, and raised $1.2 million thanks to some help from Inhofe’s former donors.  Mullin and Shannon, who have both pledged allegiance to Trump, will compete in an Aug. 23 runoff to become the Republican nominee.

Inhofe’s critiques of Mullin are not to be mistaken for an endorsement of Shannon, he said. That’s a question Inhofe said he’s not ready to answer yet, if ever.

In a statement, Mullin did not respond to Inhofe’s criticisms but said he wants to carry on the retiring senator’s legacy. 

“I’ve had the pleasure of calling Senator Jim Inhofe my friend and mentor for years,” Mullin said. “In this time I’ve witnessed his unwavering commitment to our country and to the people of Oklahoma. His shoes will never be filled. But it’s my hope that Oklahomans will put their trust in me to honor his legacy and build upon all that he started.“

Inhofe, who previously served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and is now the ranking member, said he believes the only two things Congress is supposed to control are defense and infrastructure. 

Mullin has said that if elected, he wants to carry on Inhofe’s legacy and also serve on the Armed Services Committee to ensure a strong national defense.

“The defense industry is our third largest economic impact in Oklahoma,” Mullin said in an interview with The Frontier in June. “We want to make sure we protect our bases here inside Oklahoma.”

But Inhofe is skeptical. 

“(He needs) to learn a little bit about the military because I’ve never heard him say anything about the military,” Inhofe said.

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