WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued his most striking condemnation of President Donald Trump after the attack at the U.S. Capitol, saying the mob of protesters were “provoked by the president.”
“The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence,” McConnell said on the Senate floor, casting a clear shot not only at Trump but fellow Republicans who backed the president’s efforts to overturn election results in several swing states.
McConnell publicly split with Trump after the attack, which happened as the House and Senate counted Electoral College votes this month. The Kentucky Republican left open the possibility of convicting Trump at his second impeachment trial, a departure from McConnell's role during Trump's first impeachment in which he worked in concert with the White House to ensure the president was acquitted.
The Senate continues to prepare for Trump's second impeachment trial even though his term will officially end Wednesday when Joe Biden is sworn into office. Constitutional scholars debate whether a former president can be convicted once he has left office.
The House passed one article of impeachment Jan. 13, charging Trump with inciting an insurrection at the Capitol. It passed with the support of 10 Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will lead the chamber after Democrats take control Wednesday, said the Senate must move forward on a trial to ensure that the "severest offense ever committed by a president would be met by the severest remedy provided by the Constitution."
"The Senate has the solemn responsibility to try and hold Donald Trump accountable for the most serious charge ever levied against a president: the incitement of an insurrection against the United States of America," Schumer said.
Schumer vowed that the chamber would vote to bar Trump from holding office again, something allowed during an impeachment trial.
Both Senate leaders said Wednesday would usher in a new start in Washington. Schumer noted the chamber would take on COVID-19 relief and address immigration changes in the coming days.
McConnell highlighted the close margins in the House and Senate as a sign that the American people want their leaders to work together.
“There are serious challenges that our nation needs to continue confronting,” McConnell said. “Our marching orders from the American people are clear – we’re to have a robust discussion and seek common ground.”
He said, “We must always keep in mind that we’re all Americans. We all love this country. And we’re all in this together.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mitch McConnell says attack at Capitol was provoked by President Trump