Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said on Tuesday that the insurgents who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were “provoked by the President and other powerful people,” publicly declaring for the first time that he held President Trump at least partially responsible. for the assault.
“The crowd has been fed lies,” said Mr. McConnell, referring to Mr. Trump’s attempts to annul the election based on false allegations of voter fraud. “They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding from the first branch of the federal government that they didn’t like.
Mr McConnell made the remarks on his last full day as Majority Leader, speaking on the eve of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s inauguration and as the Senate prepared to receive a single article of impeachment from the House accusing M. Trump with “incitement to insurgency”.
The Kentucky Republican has said privately that he believes Mr Trump has committed attributable offenses, but said he has yet to decide to vote to convict the president, and many senators in his party are waiting. a sign from Mr. McConnell before making their own judgments. It would take 17 Republicans joining the 50 Democrats to find the president guilty, which would allow the Senate to hold a second vote to disqualify Mr. Trump from public office in the future.
Mr McConnell’s remarks came hours before he was ready to meet with his Democratic counterpart, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, to develop a set of rules for the trial and the next Senate session, when the chamber will be divided 50 -50 between the parties. Democrats will remain in control because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have the power to sever ties with the Senate, but Mr Schumer will need at least some cooperation from Mr McConnell to lead the chamber and move the issues forward. things.
On impeachment, the Republican leader appeared to take a much different stance than he did a year ago when the Senate first tried Mr. Trump. Next, Mr. McConnell acted at the request of the White House to establish trial rules that would favor acquittal. Now he has told his allies he hopes to never speak to Mr. Trump again and is doing nothing to persuade senators to support him, instead calling the impeachment vote a matter of conscience.
But as Democrats take unified control of Washington, he warned them that pursuing a partisan agenda would come at their own political risk.
“The November election certainly did not give either side a mandate to radically change ideology,” said McConnell. “Our marching orders from the American people are clear: we need to have a solid discussion and seek common ground. We need to seek bipartisan agreement wherever we can, and respectfully verify and balance ourselves where we need to.
Speaking after Mr McConnell, Mr Schumer stressed that the Senate would proceed down three thorny tracks at once, calling a trial at the same time Democrats attempt to confirm nominees for Mr Biden’s cabinet and start drafting a additional coronavirus relief bill.
Although some Democrats expressed concern that Mr. Trump’s trial would eclipse Mr. Biden’s opening days in office, Mr. Schumer insisted that a trial was needed to eliminate the risk of Mr. Trump could continue to present for the country, even outside of office.
“He will continue to spread lies about the election and stoke the grievances of his most radical supporters, using the prospect of a future presidential race to poison the public arena at a time when we have to do so much.” , said Mr. Schumer.