Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said on Tuesday that the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 had been “provoked by the president and other powerful people,” stating publicly for the first time that he holds President Trump at least partly responsible for the assault.
“The mob was fed lies,” Mr. McConnell said, referring to attempts by Mr. Trump to overturn the election based on bogus claims 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 of the first branch of the federal government which they did not 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 was bracing to receive a single article of impeachment from the House charging Mr. Trump with “incitement of insurrection.”
The Kentucky Republican has indicated privately that he believes that Mr. Trump committed impeachable offenses, but he has said he has yet to decide whether to vote to convict the president, and many senators in his party are awaiting a sign from Mr. McConnell before making their own judgments. It would take 17 Republicans joining all 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 set to meet face to face with his Democratic counterpart, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, to work out a set of rules for the trial and the coming Senate session, when the chamber will be split 50-50 between the parties. Democrats will hold control because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will have the power to break Senate ties, but Mr. Schumer will need at least some cooperation from Mr. McConnell to run the chamber and get things done.
On impeachment, the Republican leader appeared to be striking a far different posture than he did a year ago, when the Senate first sat in judgment of Mr. Trump. Then, Mr. McConnell acted at the White House’s behest to set trial rules that would favor acquittal. Now, he has told allies he hopes never to speak to Mr. Trump again and is doing nothing to persuade senators to back 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.
Capitol Riot Fallout
From Riot to Impeachment
The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and the ongoing fallout:
- As this video shows, poor planning and a restive crowd encouraged by President Trump set the stage for the riot.
- A two hour period was crucial to turning the rally into the riot.
- Several Trump administration officials, including cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao, announced that they were stepping down as a result of the riot.
- Federal prosecutors have charged more than 70 people, including some who appeared in viral photos and videos of the riot. Officials expect to eventually charge hundreds of others.
- The House voted to impeach the president on charges of “inciting an insurrection” that led to the rampage by his supporters.
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