McConnell Says Mob Attack on Capitol Was ‘Provoked’ by Trump

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the mob that stormed the Capitol Jan. 6 was “fed lies” and “provoked by the president” and others into a violent and deadly rampage.

McConnell’s words on the Senate floor Tuesday were some of the strongest he’s used to tie President Donald Trump directly to the attack that disrupted the certification of the Electoral College votes that elected Joe Biden as the next president.

McConnell Says Mob Attack on Capitol Was ‘Provoked’ by Trump

“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said, referring to baseless allegations of voter fraud in the presidential election that were advanced by Trump and some of his high-profile supporters. “They tried to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government, which they did not like.”

The crowd marched to the Capitol following a rally near the White House where they were addressed by Trump.“All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened, radical-left Democrats,” Trump told cheering supporters. “We will never give up; we will never concede.”

Last week, the Democratic-controlled House impeached Trump on a single article charging him with incitement of insurrection following the assault on the Capitol, which left five people, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer, dead and resulted in damage to the building.

McConnell’s remarks underscored the extent to which he has sought to distance himself from Trump, even before the Jan. 6 riot, beginning with his belated acknowledgment of Biden’s win.

While blaming Trump for provoking the crowd, the Kentucky Republican continued to leave some uncertainty over how he will handle Trump’s impeachment trial. Last week, he told fellow Republicans he had not decided how he would vote on the single article of impeachment.

One of his long-time allies told reporters Tuesday that hasn’t changed.

“He’s going to listen to the evidence that’s been presented,” Texas Republican John Cornyn said of McConnell’s approach to the impeachment trial.

Cornyn said each Republican should decide for themselves how they will vote on whether to convict Trump, without pressure from party leaders.

“I’ve heard people talk about a vote of conscience,” Cornyn said. “I think that’s a good way to put it.”

McConnell Says Mob Attack on Capitol Was ‘Provoked’ by Trump

It would take 67 votes to convict Trump if all senators vote. That means at least 17 Republicans would have to join all 50 Democrats on the verdict. McConnell’s decision on impeachment will influence what other GOP senators do. It also will have an effect on how much influence Trump continues to exert over the party once he’s out of office.

There’s been no public groundswell among Senate Republicans to convict Trump. Some have argued that what he did was not an impeachable offense or that a trial after he leaves office would be unconstitutional, a position disputed by many legal scholars.

“My view is that President Trump is going to bear responsibility for this and be part of his legacy,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s been a close ally of the president. “I don’t think he committed a crime.”

He said impeaching a president who is out of office “is bad for the presidency, bad for the country.”

Mississippi GOP Senator Roger Wicker said that with Trump out office, a trial is “a totally pointless exercise.”

From House to Senate

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hasn’t yet said when she would send the impeachment article to the Senate, triggering the start of a trial.

”We’re doing the inauguration now,” she told reporters when asked when she would transmit it to the Senate.

Biden is set to be inaugurated Wednesday and an impeachment trial risks tying up the Senate at the same time the he is trying to get his cabinet confirmed and roll out his legislative agenda.

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