After four years of tolerating President Donald Trump’s boundless propensity for conspiracy and recklessness toward government institutions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew the line at the very moment Trump’s power seems most on the wane.
Calling President Trump and his allies’ claims of election fraud “extraordinarily thin,” McConnell (R-KY) cast the effort to overturn the 2020 election results in his chamber as an existential challenge for the country that would “damage our republic forever” if successful.
Speaking from the Senate floor on Wednesday, McConnell laced into Trump—and those 11 senators within his ranks who have rebelled against his leadership by backing a plot to twist the Senate’s perfunctory role in certifying the election into a last-ditch way to keep Trump in power.
"The Constitution gives us here in Congress a limited role,” said McConnell. “We cannot simply declare ourselves a national board of elections on steroids.”
With Trump days away from leaving office, McConnell broke with the president in this speech in an unequivocal, forceful fashion—something he has largely avoided over the last four years, as Trump unleashed a myriad of challenges to the country’s institutions and made clear his propensity for spreading the lies and conspiracies that McConnell is now decrying as a threat.
“President Trump claims the election was stolen. The assertions range from specific local allegations to constitutional arguments to sweeping conspiracy theories,” said McConnell. “I supported the president’s right to use the legal system… over and over the courts rejected these claims, including also the judges the president himself nominated.”
The Kentucky senator warned that “our democracy would enter a death spiral” if the GOP insurrection took hold. “Every four years would be a scramble for power at any cost.”
In characteristic fashion, however, McConnell bashed Democrats—who are set to take the majority leader’s gavel from him after two victories in Georgia’s runoff elections—for objecting to Electoral College certifications in past elections. “We must not imitate and escalate what we repudiate,” said McConnell.
But the striking circumstances of Trump’s unprecedented effort were on display minutes earlier, on the other end of the National Mall. The president rallied his supporters and decried a “stolen” election yet again, and afterward, thousands from that crowd marched to the U.S. Capitol, storming barricades and forcing evacuations from office buildings.