US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial:
“January 6th was a disgrace.
“American citizens attacked their own government. They used terrorism to try to stop a specific piece of democratic business they did not like.
“Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president.
“They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth – because he was angry he’d lost an election.
“Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty.
“The House accused the former president of, quote, ‘incitement.’ That is a specific term from the criminal law.
“Let me put that to the side for one moment and reiterate something I said weeks ago: There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.
“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.
“And their 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.
“The issue is not only the president’s intemperate language on January 6th.
“It is not just his endorsement of remarks in which an associate urged ‘trial by combat’.
“It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe; the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-president.
“I defended the president’s right to bring any complaints to our legal system. The legal system spoke. The Electoral College spoke. As I stood up and said clearly at the time, the election was settled.
“But that reality just opened a new chapter of even wilder and more unfounded claims.
“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.
“Sadly, many politicians sometimes make overheated comments or use metaphors that unhinged listeners might take literally.
“This was different.
“This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories, orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.
“The unconscionable behaviour did not end when the violence began.
“Whatever our ex-president claims he thought might happen that day… whatever reaction he says he meant to produce… by that afternoon, he was watching the same live television as the rest of the world.
“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.
“Former aides publicly begged him to do so. Loyal allies frantically called the Administration.
“But 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.
“Instead, according to public reports, he watched television happily as the chaos unfolded. He kept pressing his scheme to overturn the election!
“Even after it was clear to any reasonable observer that Vice President Pence was in danger… even as the mob carrying Trump banners was beating cops and breaching perimeters… the president sent a further tweet attacking his vice president.
“Predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as further inspiration to lawlessness and violence.
“Later, even when the president did halfheartedly begin calling for peace, he did not call right away for the riot 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.
“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.
“Anyone who decries his awful behaviour is accused of insulting millions of voters.
“That is an absurd deflection.
“74 million Americans did not invade the Capitol. Several hundred rioters did.
“And 74 million Americans did not engineer the campaign of disinformation and rage that provoked it.
“One person did.