In this Jan. 6, 2021, photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., walks from the Senate floor to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just used his strongest language yet to blame the Capitol riots on President Trump.
“This mob was fed lies. 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,” McConnell declared on the Senate floor Tuesday.
McConnell, who will become minority leader in the evenly divided Senate on Wednesday, will play a crucial role in Trump’s upcoming impeachment trial. If he votes to convict Trump, a number of other establishment-minded Republicans would likely go along with him. That creates a realistic scenario where the 67 senators needed could vote to convict Trump for the charge of “incitement of insurrection.”
Trump spent months lying that the election was stolen from him, encouraged supporters to join a rally on the day that Congress was set to certify Joe Biden’s victory, then encouraged pro-Trump mob he’d gathered in Washington to march on the Capitol. After they attacked the police and breached the building, he refused for hours to authorize backup to try to restore order. And Republican lawmakers are keenly aware of that, after spending hours on lockdown as a violent pro-Trump mob marauded through the Capitol building and ransacking the chambers and offices.
All 50 Senate Democrats and a half-dozen Republicans are expected to vote to convict Trump, but the last dozen or so Republican senators necessary will be unlikely to go after Trump unless McConnell decides it’s in his and the party’s best interest to do so. If the Senate does convict Trump, it would likely take the next step and vote to bar him from ever running for future office.
McConnell said last week that he hasn’t “made a final decision” on his impeachment vote after multiple outlets reported that he was glad to see Trump impeached and was leaning toward convicting him.
“I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate,” he said.
McConnell’s position comes after many major corporations have recoiled from Trump. Corporate leaders and wealthy donors have financed much of McConnell’s never-ending fight for the Senate majority and may be playing a role in his decision-making.
That’s a stark difference from Trump’s first impeachment, when McConnell said at the trial’s start that there was “zero chance” of removing Trump.
But Trump’s first impeachment wasn’t for actions that put McConnell’s and other lawmakers’ lives in jeopardy.