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McConnell: Trump Spent ‘Weeks’ Provoking Riots, Didn’t ‘Do His Job’ to Stop Riot

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During a speech on the Senate floor on Saturday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that former President Donald Trump’s actions before the Capitol riot “were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.” And that the president “cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things.” McConnell also said that during the riot, Trump “did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored.”

McConnell said that the riots occurred because the rioters “had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth. Because he was angry he lost an election. Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty. … There is no question, none that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. No question about it.”

He added that the issue isn’t just what Trump did on January 6, but it’s “also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe, the increasingly wild myth, myth about a reversed landslide election that was somehow being stolen, some secret coup by our now-president. Now, I defended the president’s right to bring any complaints to our legal system. The legal system spoke. The Electoral College spoke.”

McConnell continued, “The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things. Now, sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors, we saw that, that unhinged listeners might take literally. But that was different. That’s different from what we saw. This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seem determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

McConnell also said that regardless of what reaction Trump intended to create, “By that afternoon, we know he was watching the same live television as the rest of us. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty to him. It was obvious that only President Trump could end this. He was the only one who could. Former aides publicly begged him to do so, loyal allies frantically called the administration. The president did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law could be faithfully executed and order restored. No. Instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily, happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election. Now, even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in serious danger, even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters, the president sent a further tweet attacking his own vice president. Now, predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as a further inspiration to lawlessness and violence, not surprisingly. Later, even when the president did halfheartedly begin calling for peace, he didn’t call right away for the riots to end. He did not tell the mob to depart until even later. And even then, with police officers bleeding and broken glass covering Capitol floors, he kept repeating election lies and praising the criminals.”

McConnell also argued, “In recent weeks, our ex-president’s associates have tried to use the 74 million Americans who voted to re-elect him as a kind of human shield against criticism, using the 74 million who voted for him as kind of a human shield against criticism. Anyone who decries his awful behavior is accused of insulting millions of voters. That’s absurd deflection. 74 million Americans did not invade the Capitol, hundreds of rioters did. 74 million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it, one person did.”

McConnell then explained his reason for voting against conviction by stating that there is no legal justification that “would empower the Senate to convict former officers that would not also let them convict and disqualify any private citizen, an absurd end result, to which no one subscribes.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett