Republican leader says Trump 'provoked' Capitol siege

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Mitch McConnell. — AFP file
Mitch McConnell. — AFP file

Washington - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is placing blame on President Donald Trump for the deadly riot at the Capitol


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Published: Wed 20 Jan 2021, 9:18 AM

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 the president and others “provoked” those intent on overturning Democrat Joe Biden’s election.

Ahead of Trump’s historic 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.”

The Republican leader vowed a “safe and successful” inauguration of Biden on Wednesday at the Capitol, where final preparations were underway amid heavy security.

Trump’s last full day in office on Tuesday was also senators’ first day back since the deadly Capitol siege and the House vote 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 are set to be sworn into office on Wednesday 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.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet sent the sole article of impeachment to the Senate, which will launch the trial, but said late Tuesday on MSNBC, “It will be soon.”

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 organise the evenly divided chamber, a process that could slow all of the Senate’s business and delay the impeachment proceedings.

There were signs of an early impasse. During their meeting McConnell told Schumer he wants “rules concerning the legislative filibuster remain intact, specifically during the power share for the next two years,” according to the Republican leader’s spokesman Doug Andres.

Pelosi said that if evidence shows that members of Congress “aided and abetted” the rioters they could be prosecuted, just as “this President is an accessory to that crime because he instigated that insurrection”.

The start of the new session of Congress was also forcing lawmakers to come to terms with the post-Trump era, a transfer of power that Trump’s mob of supporters tried to prevent after he urged them to storm the Capitol as Congress was tallying the Electoral College vote confirming Biden’s election.

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