WASHINGTON – Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday explicitly blamed President Donald Trump for the deadly riot at the Capitol, saying the mob was “fed lies” and that the president and others “provoked” those intent on overturning Democrat Joe Biden's election.
Ahead of Trump's second impeachment trial, McConnell's remarks were his most severe and public rebuke of the outgoing president. The GOP leader is setting a tone as Republicans weigh whether to convict Trump on the impeachment charge that will soon be sent over from the House: “incitement of insurrection.”
“The mob was fed lies,” McConnell said. “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 vowed a “safe and successful” inauguration of Biden today at the Capitol, where final preparations were underway amid heavy security.
Trump's last full day in office was also senators' first day back since the Capitol siege and since the House voted to impeach him for his role in the riots – an unparalleled time of transition as the Senate prepares for the second impeachment trial in two years and presses ahead with the confirmation of Biden's Cabinet.
Three new Democratic senators-elect, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff of Georgia, and Alex Padilla of California, are set to be sworn into office today shortly after Biden's inauguration, giving the Democrats the barest majority, a 50-50 Senate chamber. The new vice president, Kamala Harris, will swear them in and serve as an eventual tie-breaking vote.
The Democrats, led by Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, will take charge of the Senate as they launch a trial to hold the defeated president responsible for the siege, while also quickly confirming Biden's Cabinet and being asked to consider passage of a sweeping new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
“The inauguration of a new president and the start of a new administration always brings a flurry of activity to our nation's government,” Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Making the case for Trump's conviction, Schumer said the Senate needs to set a precedent that the “severest offense ever committed by a president would be met by the severest remedy provided by the Constitution – impeachment,” and disbarment from future office.
McConnell and Schumer conferred later Tuesday about how to balance the trial with other business and how to organize the evenly divided chamber, a process that could slow the Senate's business and delay the impeachment proceedings.
There were signs of an early impasse. McConnell expressed to Schumer “his long-held view that the crucial, longstanding, and bipartisan Senate rules concerning the legislative filibuster remain intact, specifically during the power share for the next two years,” according to spokesman Doug Andres. Eliminating the Senate filibuster, a procedural move that requires a higher bar for legislation to pass, has been a priority for Democrats who will now control the House, Senate and White House.