In voting to acquit ex-President Donald Trump Feb. 13 of inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol Building, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to balance his claim that he did so because it violated the Constitution to try someone who was no longer in office with a scalding denunciation of Mr. Trump's conduct.
He stated that despite joining 42 other GOP Senators in opposing conviction—leaving the 50 Democrats and seven Republicans who voted to convict short by 10 votes of the needed two-thirds majority, "There is no question—none—that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day."
The Kentucky Senator, speaking in the Senate Chamber where the invading insurrectionists had come seeking elected officials including then-Vice President Mike Pence, continued, "The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President, 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 Planet Earth."
He added that Mr. Trump was known to have watched the riot on TV and knew "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" calm them.
Yet rather than issue a message that the rioters should desist at a time when some of them were calling for the hanging of Mr. Pence, who had been unflaggingly loyal to his boss until he decided he could not violate the Constitution by blocking certification of the Electoral College results, Mr. McConnell went on, Mr. Trump "watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election."
He accused him of being the person who chose to "engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked" the insurrection.
Mr. Trump did not initially respond to Mr. McConnell's stinging accusations, instead training his fire at Democrats in an email: "It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree." (Some thought he was again projecting his own worst qualities onto other people.)
But three days later, in a statement The New York Times reported was toned down from his original remarks, the disgraced ex-President responded to Senator McConnell's political high-wire act by firing a circus cannon intended to knock him off the tightrope.
He began, "The Republican Party can never again be respected or strong with political 'leaders' like Sen. Mitch McConnell at its helm. McConnell's dedication to business as usual, status quo policies, together with his lack of political insight, wisdom, skill and personality, has rapidly driven him from Majority Leader to Minority Leader, and it will only get worse."
Claiming that in 2018 and 2020 he "single-handedly saved at least 12 Senate seats," including Mr. McConnell's last year after he "begged" for his backing, Mr. Trump called his newest enemy "a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack, and if Republican Senators are going to stay with him, they will not win again. He will never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our Country."
It is widely believed that the then-President's tepid endorsements of Republican incumbents in two runoffs for Senate seats in Georgia while decrying his own election defeat accounted for their losing both races and costing the GOP the Senate majority.
Mr. Trump added, "Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First. We want brilliant, strong, thoughtful and compassionate leadership."
As opposed to the qualities he displayed during his time in office.
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