Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell opened the Senate on Tuesday with a blistering attack on President Donald Trump, hinting that he could vote to convict the President in the upcoming impeachment trial.
With less than 24 hours left in the White House, McConnell directly blamed Trump for the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th — a stunning attack on the leader of McConnell’s own party.
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Trump was impeached by the Democrat-led House of Represetnatives last week. McConnell has not yet said if he’ll vote to convict but gave the clearest hint on Tuesday when he claimed Trump’s “lies” fed the crowd’s anger, which then caused a deadly riot.
McConnell’s remarks are his most severe and public rebuke of outgoing President. The Republican leader vowed a “safe and successful” inauguration of Biden on Wednesday at the Capitol, which is under extremely tight security.
“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.”
McConnell said after Biden’s inauguration on the Capitol’s West Front — what he noted former President George H.W. Bush has called “democracy’s front porch” — “We’ll move forward.”
Trump’s last full day in office Tuesday is also senators’ first day back since the deadly Capitol siege, an unparalleled time of transition as the Senate presses ahead to his impeachment trial and starts confirmation hearings on President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet.
Three new Democratic senators-elect are set to be sworn into office Wednesday shortly after Biden’s inauguration at the Capitol, which is under extreme security since the bloody riot. The new senators’ arrival will give the Democrats an extremely slim majority, a 50-50 divided Senate chamber, with the new vice president, Kamala Harris, swearing them in and serving as an eventual tie-breaking vote.
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Republican senators, in particular, face a daunting choice of whether to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection, the first impeachment trial of a president no longer in office, in a break with the defeated president who continues to hold great sway over the party but whose future is uncertain.
McConnell is not popular nationally, but the Kentucky Republican remains very influential among moderate senators. If he pushes for a conviction, it could begin a historic break between the establishment Republicans and Trump.
Schumer, who is poised to become the majority leader, and McConnell are set to meet Tuesday to discuss the power-sharing agreement and schedule ahead — for Trump’s trial, confirming Biden’s nominees, and consideration of the incoming president’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.
The Associated Press contributed to this article