McConnell acquits Trump but says he is ‘morally responsible’ for provoking Capitol riot

McConnell said that the Senate did not have the jurisdiction to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection

On Saturday, after the Senate fell short of the 67 votes needed to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blamed Trump for sparking the attack on the U.S. Capitol. But despite his blistering criticism, McConnell did not vote for a conviction.

Though McConnell voted to acquit Trump, arguing it fell outside the Senate’s jurisdiction, his remarks are a stinging rebuke of Trump’s actions and rhetoric, The Hill reported.

Mitch McConnell
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks with reporters after the Senate approved a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

“There’s no question, none, that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people that stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” McConnell said.

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“And having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories and reckless hyperbole, which the defeated president kept shouting into the largest megaphone on the Earth,” McConnell added.

McConnell also said the mob breached the Capitol because it was fed “wild falsehoods” by Trump, who was “angry he had lost an election.”

Long accused of being a Trump-enabler, McConnell, like most Senate Republicans, refused to acknowledge for weeks that President Joe Biden had won the election. But he publicly congratulated Biden on the floor in mid-December after the Electoral College certified the victory.

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“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise,” the GOP leader said, adding that Trump “seemed determined to either overturn the voters decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

Donald Trump AP
FILE – In this Dec. 20, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump congratulates Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., while House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., looks on during a ceremony at the White House after the final passage of tax overhaul legislation. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Although Trump’s legal team defended his actions on Jan. 6, arguing that Trump didn’t know former Vice President Mike Pence was in danger when he encouraged his supporters to march on the Capitol, McConnell rejected those claims.

“We know that he was watching the same live television as the rest of us. A mob was assaulting the Capitol in his name. … The president did not act swiftly. He did not do his job. He didn’t take steps so federal law he could be faithfully executed and order restored,” McConnell said.

However, the GOP leader also said that impeaching Trump falls outside the Senate’s jurisdiction because Trump is no longer in office.

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