McConnell says Trump ‘practically and morally’ to blame for riot in stunning rebuke despite acquittal

Former staunch Trump ally distances himself from former president but refuses to break ranks with his vote

Phil Thomas
Saturday 13 February 2021 22:22 GMT
Mitch McConnell blames Trump for Capitol riot, despite voting to acquit him
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Mitch McConnell said Donald Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the 6 January insurrection at the Capitol in a prolonged rebuke of the former president, despite minutes earlier leading Republicans in acquitting him of inciting it in his second impeachment trial.

The final vote count was 57-43, with seven Republicans voting against the former president. However, Democrats would have had to persuade 17 Republicans to join them all in order to succeed in getting the two-thirds majority needed to secure a conviction.

There was widespread speculation that MrMcConnell may vote to convict Mr Trump, but he did not. Instead, he slammed the former president following the vote, commenting that his words had led to the Capitol riot.

He said: “They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth. Because he was angry. He had lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceded the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty.”

Mr McConnell reportedly did not believe the Senate was right to pursue a trial, with CNN reporting sources close to the Senate minority leader saying he believed a Senate impeachment trial could not be held for someone who had left office.

But despite voting to acquit the former president, Mr McConnell made it clear he was placing the blame firmly at Mr Trump’s feet. Previously a key ally of Mr Trump, Mr McConnell broke ranks when he acknowledged Joe Biden’s election victory – albeit said acknowledgement not coming until mid-December – several weeks after the election was called for the Democrat.

He further distanced himself from Mr Trump in January, 13 days after the deadly Capitol riot, commenting: “The 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. But we pressed on. We stood together, and said an angry mob would not veto power over the rule of law in our nation.”

Mr McConnell had become tired of Mr Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election had been “stolen” from him by Mr Biden, The New York Times reported, but, with the former president retaining much grass-roots support as well as a number of loyalists in Congress, Mr McConnell stopped short of totally turning his back on MrTrump.

As well as voting against conviction on Saturday, Mr McConnell had previously backed a motion tabled by Senator Rand Paul that argued to dismiss the impeachment trial entirely.

With Democrats 10 votes short of the number needed for a conviction, Mr McConnell’s vote alone would not have mad a difference to the outcome of the trial – even if he had fully broken ranks to vote against his former ally.

Mr McConnell’s comments that Mr Trump was “morally responsible” for the riot will have done little to appease the Democrats whose cause he failed to support on Saturday; however, he is likely to have riled Trump loyalists further.

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