Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday openly declared that President Donald Trump and other conservatives who relentlessly peddled bogus election-fraud claim “provoked” the deadly insurrectionist Capitol riots.
In a Senate floor speech, the day before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office, the top Republican placed further distance between himself and Trump by squarely blaming the Capitol riots on Trump and his allies.
“The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty,” the Kentucky senator said, recounting the Electoral College certification that MAGA rioters attempted to squash.
“The mob was fed lies,” he continued. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And 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. But we pressed on.”
Besides taking direct aim at the president, McConnell also appeared to deliver a message to members of his own caucus, especially Sens. Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who both led efforts to reject the results of elections in states that Biden won. Hawley, notably, was seen in a since-viral photo raising a celebratory fist to the Jan. 6 crowd shortly before they rioted.
McConnell, who is reportedly leaning towards convicting Trump in an impeachment trial, went on to say that the Senate “stood together said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation,” adding that the night ended with Congress certifying that Biden would be the next president.
Elsewhere in his remarks, McConnell insisted that despite Democrats holding both chambers of Congress along with the White House, the election results “did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change.”
“Americans elected a closely divided Senate, a closely divided House, and a presidential candidate who said he'd represent everyone,” he continued. “So our marching orders from the American people are clear—we're to have a robust discussion and seek common ground.”
While McConnell has recently been outspoken about Trump’s lies that the election was “stolen” from him via widespread voter fraud, the majority leader remained largely silent immediately following the November election, waiting 38 days when the Electoral College officially voted before finally acknowledging Biden’s victory.
McConnell and other GOP leaders, meanwhile, have decided to skip Trump’s departure ceremony at Joint Base Andrews on Wednesday and will instead attend a Catholic service with the incoming president ahead of the inauguration.