Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said on Tuesday that the mob that 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.
Awaiting a sign, no doubt, to determine what principles they have. It's critical for McConnell to signal flexibility on the impending Senate trial because he is currently negotiating with Chuck Schumer the details on control of the Senate.
New: McConnell wants Senate power-sharing deal to protect legislative filibuster.— John McCormack (@McCormackJohn) January 19, 2021
In an email obtained by @NRO, McConnell wrote to GOP colleagues: "I believe the time is ripe to address this issue head on before the passions of one particular issue or another arise."
However, Senator McConnell probably is genuinely considering voting for conviction of Donald Trump. The Times notes that at Trump's trial after he was first impeached
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.
McConnell hopes never to speak to President VL because the former is no Joe Biden, who has put a heartbeat from the presidency the politician who once called him, in Jill Biden's reckoning, a racist. By contrast, McConnell is not inclined to reward an individual who successfully cut his legs out from under him.
It took the Senate Majority Leader six weeks to acknowledge that Donald Trump lost the presidential election to Joe Biden. Within five weeks later he had indicated that he might vote to convict Trump, stated that the Capitol riot was "provoked by the President and other important people," and has promoted a leak that he doesn't want to talk to Trump again.
Something happened in the interim. That something was the run-off election in Georgia for dual Senate seats. Instead of conceding his own race, the President argued vociferously that he had won and aggressively spread the myth that he would return to office. Not only did the GOP lose both races, but barely so. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will become Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell because of Donald Trump.
Believing Joe Biden might not become President, Republican voters were less motivated because they thought Trump might return to office, making the idea of a Democratic-controlled Senate more palatable. Independent-minded voters found it unnecessary to ensure Republican control of the Senate as a check on the liberal Democrat in the White House.
Mitch McConnell has not undergone the "epiphany" Joe Biden expects from Republicans. Rather, McConnell knows the GOP lost its majority in the United States Senate because of Donald J. Trump. This does not endear the latter to the former, who will pay at least a small price for his single-minded devotion to self. It should be a reminder to Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden that they will be facing off against a ruthless rival, not a partner.