Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday accused President Trump of provoking the violent crowd that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
“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 mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, marking the first convening of the full Senate since the attack.
McConnell’s statements carry significance ahead of an anticipated Senate impeachment trial. The GOP leader has told colleagues he hasn’t yet decided how he would vote on a House-passed article of impeachment against Trump.
His remark that the crowd was “fed lies” is a reference to baseless and debunked claims spread by Trump and members of his legal team and inner circle that widespread election fraud cost Trump a second term. Trump has not formally conceded the race to President-elect Joe Biden.
Trump told supporters gathered at a rally near the White House on Jan. 6, shortly before the mob stormed the Capitol, that “they rigged it like they have never rigged an election” and declared “we won this election and we won it by a landslide.”
Several people died amid the riot on Jan. 6, including a Capitol Police officer who was injured while responding to the mob.
McConnell accused the rioters who breached the building of trying “to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”
Protesters overwhelmed the Capitol’s security while lawmakers were tallying the vote of the Electoral College to make Biden the 46th president of the United States.
The melee temporarily halted the final certification of Biden’s victory, with both chambers later reconvening to resume the count once the Capitol campus had been secured.
“We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation, not even for one night,” McConnell said Tuesday.
Speaking against objections to the electoral votes of Arizona and Pennsylvania, McConnell argued on the Senate floor Jan. 6 that the 2020 presidential election wasn’t even that close in the end.
“This election actually was not unusually close. Just in recent history, 1976, 2000 and 2004 were all closer than this one,” he said.
More recently, McConnell has left colleagues guessing on how he might vote on the article of impeachment, which accuses Trump of inciting insurrection at the Capitol.
“While the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he wrote in a note to colleagues last week.