Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Saturday unleashed blistering criticism of former President Trump, blaming him for sparking the attack on the Capitol while also explaining why he didn’t vote for a conviction.
McConnell also suggested that Trump could face criminal prosecution for his actions.
“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” McConnell said.
“And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on the Earth,” McConnell added.
McConnell’s remarks came after the Senate fell short of the 67 votes needed to convict Trump. Though McConnell voted to acquit him, arguing it fell outside the Senate’s jurisdiction, his remarks are a stinging rebuke of Trump’s actions and rhetoric.
McConnell said the mob breached the Capitol because it was fed “wild falsehoods” by Trump, who was “angry he had lost an election.”
McConnell, like most Senate Republicans, refused to acknowledge for weeks that President Biden had won the election. But he publicly congratulated Biden on the floor in mid-December after the Electoral College certified the victory.
McConnell marked the day as when Trump “opened up a new chapter of wilder and more unfounded claims.”
“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise,” the GOP leader said, adding that Trump “seemed determined to either overturn the voters decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”
Trump’s legal team defended his actions on Jan. 6, when he repeated false claims that the election was “stolen” and encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol just as former Vice President Mike Pence and lawmakers were counting the Electoral College votes.
Trump’s team also argued that the former president did not realize that Pence was in danger.
McConnell rejected those claims, noting that attack played out on live television.
“We know that he was watching the same live television as the rest of us. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. … The president did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law he could be faithfully executed and order restored,” McConnell said.
But the GOP leader also said that impeaching Trump falls outside the Senate’s jurisdiction because Trump is no longer in office. McConnell voted twice previously to try to declare the trial unconstitutional, an argument that has been rejected by a swath of legal scholars.
Though the House impeached Trump while he was still in office, the Senate trial didn’t start until after Biden was sworn in. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) tried to get McConnell to bring the Senate back into session early to start the trial before Trump left office, but the GOP leader shot down the request.
“The question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible,” McConnell said.
McConnell, however, hinted that Trump could still face legal repercussions.
“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run. … Didn’t get away with anything yet,” McConnell said.
Via The Hill