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McConnell Admits Trump “Provoked” Jan. 6 Amid Rising GOP Support for Impeachment

Though McConnell blamed others for the attempted coup, he bears great responsibility for promoting Trump’s lies.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell adjusts his face mask at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 3, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

On the Senate floor on Tuesday, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said that President Donald Trump bore responsibility for the attempted coup at the Capitol building on January 6. Tuesday was the first time the Senate convened since the attack.

“The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty,” said McConnell. “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.” McConnell went on to say that Congress was not deterred by the attack and that they certified the election results for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

On Jan. 6, McConnell did not join his 147 fellow Republicans who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election based on the false claims made by Trump and his allies in Congress that had motivated the militants to go on a rampage at the Capitol that day. Last week, he said that he is considering voting to convict Trump, pending trial.

But such symbolic moves can’t erase history, and, though he names “other powerful people” in the coup incitement, many have pointed out that McConnell still shoulders blame, as a party leader, for Republicans’ actions in the last several months. After the attempted coup, Truthout columnist William Rivers Pitt wrote that, thanks to the “canine servility” of McConnell and other Republicans, “the Republicans created this monster. They must now get the net.”

Others noted that McConnell’s intentions may not always be pure. “McConnell may think that the speech he gave on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, objecting to the election deniers, will spare him history’s judgment,” writes Jennifer Senior in the New York Times. “It will not. It did not make him a hero.” Senior notes that McConnell, more than ever, currently has his thoughts trained on his legacy.

McConnell accusing Trump of inciting the coup last Tuesday was the first time he had directly tied the president to the violence of January 6. His remarks also fell on the last full day of Trump’s presidency, and in a time when, according to new polls from Politico, support for convicting Trump in the Senate is growing more popular among Republicans surveyed. On Wednesday, Trump will end his presidency with some of the lowest approval ratings for any president.

Though the public will likely at least have to wait until impeachment trials in the Senate are underway to hear more about McConnell’s thoughts on the matter, his vote to acquit Trump from his first impeachment around this time last year is forever on the record.

During Trump’s first impeachment, the House voted largely along party lines, save for two Democrats (one of whom is now a Republican). No Republicans voted for his impeachment in the House.

This time around, 10 House Republicans voted for Trump’s impeachment — and so, even within the party that was “[taken] over” by Trump, as the New York Times put it, tides seem to be shifting.

But, though McConnell has been breaking a bit from Trump, he and other congressional leaders, as Washington reporters have noted, have stood steadfast by the president in the last four years. Last week, McConnell dashed Democrats’ hopes that he might reconvene the Senate to hold impeachment trials before Biden’s inauguration.

Soon, Trump will be considered for conviction by the Senate after having been impeached for a second time by the House last week for his role in inciting a violent attack on the Capitol with the goal of overturning the results of the presidential election. Many Democrats have also called for Republicans who voted for overturning the results to be investigated and possibly removed from office.

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