Mitch McConnell Slaps Trump Around in Parting Shot

Nicholas Kamm/Pool via AP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gave President Trump a bit of a parting gift today, and it’s not one that will be appreciated. McConnell took to the Senate floor and gave a speech in which he pointedly blamed Trump for the riot at the Capitol, claiming that they were “provoked” by the President.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said President Trump’s supporters who stormed the Capitol were “violent criminals” who were “provoked” by Trump “and other powerful people.”

McConnell’s rebuke of Trump on his final full day in office follows his previous confirmation that he’s open to convicting Trump in a looming Senate impeachment trial for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 mob, which disrupted certification of Trump’s election defeat.

“The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor.

“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…. but we pressed on.”

This sure sounds like McConnell is going to vote to convict Trump whenever his latest impeachment trial starts. If he doesn’t, how does he justify taking the above position? If he truly believes Trump “provoked” the attack and is responsible for it, then that could be argued to be a criminal action, a standard not even needing to be reached for impeachment by law. Of course, there’s precious little context here. Lots of people, including McConnell, have no problem saying Trump caused the riot, yet few offer any actual, substantive evidence on the matter. Call me old fashioned, but you shouldn’t be impeaching someone without hard evidence they committed a high crime or misdemeanor. Broadening things out past that just leads to the political nonsense we saw with Trump’s first impeachment and what we are seeing now.

Regardless, here’s the thing people need to realize when judging McConnell’s sudden shift on the President. Trump is who he’s always been. Nothing about his rhetoric the last few months was markedly worse than the previous four years. The only difference is that some QAnon morons decided to do something really stupid along the way. To suggest that’s directly Trump’s responsibility is to set such a vague standard that any politician saying pretty much anything polarizing can be accused of violent incitement in the future.

Given that, why was this the supposed breaking point for McConnell? The answer is simple. He’s a seasoned politician who now has nothing to lose. He was just re-elected, Trump is exiting the White House, and the GOP are now in the minority anyway. All of this would carry a little more weight had McConnell taken this stand much earlier. Instead, he waited until all the political risk was gone. I’d hardly call that courageous. Further, I think his opinion on this matter is just wrong. You can have passionate feelings about the disgusting nature of the Capitol riot without abusing the constitutional process along the way.

What all this signals is a return to business as usual for GOP leadership. I’m not so sure GOP voters will go along to get along in response, though.

(Please follow me on Twitter…@bonchieredstate)