Mitch McConnell blames Trump for deadly Capitol riot

Jan. 19, 2021

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday explicitly blamed President Donald Trump for instigating the riot at the US Capitol on January 6.

“The mob was fed lies,” the GOP leader said on the Senate floor. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.”

The Kentucky Republican’s rebuke came as Trump faces an impeachment trial in the Senate over the Capitol siege. McConnell is said to be leaning toward voting to convict Trump, as he thinks impeachment could help to “purge” him from the GOP, The New York Times reported last week.

McConnell’s “message to me was this would clearly be a vote of conscience,” Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota told Insider last week.

McConnell’s vote could encourage other Republican senators to follow suit; at least 17 Republicans, along with every Democrat, would need to sign on in order to convict Trump. It could also open up the possibility of barring Trump from running for office again.

On January 6, Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol while Congress was meeting to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The House last week impeached Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection.

“They tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like,” McConnell said on Tuesday. “But we pressed on. We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation, not even for one night. We certified the people’s choice for their 46th president.”

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When Congress reconvened later on January 6 to complete the certification, McConnell condemned the violence but didn’t mention the president

The GOP leader has reportedly been furious with Trump over the riot and has vowed never to speak to the president again. The two have not spoken since mid-December when McConnell acknowledged Biden’s win, The Times reported.

The Senate returned on Tuesday to begin confirmation hearings for Biden’s Cabinet nominees. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is expected to become the majority leader on Wednesday, has said his priorities are confirming Biden’s picks, passing a new coronavirus stimulus package, and conducting Trump’s impeachment trial.

McConnell noted that the Senate had not formally received the article of impeachment from the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t signaled when she will deliver it, but it could be as soon as this week.

The congressional leaders have said they’re focused on ensuring a smooth transition on Inauguration Day on Wednesday

“We’ll have a safe and successful inaugural right here, on the West Front of the Capitol,” McConnell said on Tuesday, adding, “Then we’ll move forward.”

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