Mitch McConnell denounced Donald Trump Tuesday, saying that the president was responsible for 'provoking' the MAGA mob who stormed the Capitol and murdered a police officer.
'The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,' the majority leader said on the Senate floor.
'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 continued.
'But we pressed on. We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation.'
The dramatic and unprompted intervention by the man who will be Republicans' most senior leader when Trump leaves office came with less than 24 hours of his presidency remaining.
Through sheer coincidence, Tuesday was Republican Ted Cruz's turn to preside over the Senate – so when McConnell addressed the 'president' he was talking directly to the Texas senator.
Cruz was one of the handful of Republican senators to go forward with voting to object to the Electoral College certification just hours after the deadly riot delayed the proceedings.
Adding to McConnell's resonance, the speech is one of the last acts of his time as Republican majority leader; he will become the minority leader once the two new Georgia Democratic senators are sworn in on Wednesday.
It takes McConnell much closer to publicly declaring he will convict Trump at his Senate impeachment trial and gives significant cover to members of the GOP caucus to vote to convict too.
But it also shows the deep divisions inside the Republican Senate, with the only members to make their positions known so far three who say they will not convict: Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul and Tom Cotton.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said during remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday that Donald Trump 'provoked' the crowd who stormed the Capitol two weeks ago is his most outright denunciation of the president to date
'The mob was fed lies,' McConnell said as the Senate reconvened on Tuesday. 'They were provoked by the president and other powerful people'
'The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people,' McConnell said of Trump's speech to thousands of his supporters before they descended on Capitol Hill
During his remarks, McConnell honored the sacrifice Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick (pictured) gave in defending the Capitol. He died the day after the riot after being hit over the head with a fire extinguisher
He also paid tribute to fellow Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood (pictured), who committed suicide in an off-duty incident three days after the attack
McConnell and Schumer are waiting for Nancy Pelosi to send the single article of impeachment accusing Trump of 'incitement of insurrection' to them, which will begin the Senate trial.
His break with Trump comes as several Republicans, including former administration officials, turn against the president in the fallout of the Capitol riot by thousands of Trump supporters.
On Monday, former Attorney General Bill Barr told ITV News that the attack on the Capitol was 'precipitated' by Trump's repeated claims of election fraud. He also compared those involved in the mob to Islamic terrorists.
'That was the thing that precipitated riots on the Hill,' Barr said when asked if the debate over election integrity contributed to the scene at the Capitol.
'I'll leave it to the people who are looking into the genesis of this to say whether incitement was involved,' Barr said, stopping short of calling Trump's words 'incitement of insurrection.'
Hundreds were injured in the riot two weeks ago and five died, including a Capitol Police officer, Brian Sicknick, who was hit over the head by a protester with a fire hydrant and a female pro-Trump demonstrator, Ashli Babbit, who was shot in the chest in the chaos.
McConnell also praised law enforcement during his floor remarks Tuesday for already making more than 100 arrested related to the riot.
'A great deal has already been said about the disgraceful events of January 6,' the Kentucky Republican said. 'More will be said in the weeks ahead. I understand the FBI has already made at least 100 arrests and the Justice Department reports more than 275 persons are under investigation, a number that is climbing fast.'
He added: 'I want to commend the work of the department to swiftly investigate and bring offenders to justice.'
'I want to reaffirm the huge respect and gratitude that I have and I believe all senators have for the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police, who put their own safety on the line every single day that they clock in and stand guard.'
He paid tribute to Sicknick, the only law enforcement to die as a result of the violent attack, as well as fellow Capitol Police officer Howard Liebengood, who died three days after the riot in an off-duty suicide.
'Neither the institution of Congress nor the American people will ever forget the bravery and the valor of Officer Brian Sicknick, who sacrificed himself to protect this place and those inside,' McConnell said. 'We'll not forget our friend, Officer Howard Liebengood, and we'll never forget our debt to all the brave USCP officers and their families.
He thanks the National Guard and other law enforcement entities for deploying to Washington to help patrol the nation's capital in the weeks between the unprecedented attack and Biden's inauguration on Wednesday.As of Tuesday, around 25,000 National Guard members are stationed in D.C. as they prepare for potential attacks surrounding the presidential transition from Trump to Biden.
The House voted last Wednesday on an impeachment article, but it is still unclear if enough Republicans in the Senate will cross the line to convict the president.
McConnell has already publicly given the OK for his caucus to convict Trump on 'incitement of insurrection' after the House voted last Wednesday to impeach the president on this charge.
Thousands of pro-Trump protesters descended on the Capitol Wednesday, January 6 in an attempt to stop Congress from voting to certify the election for Joe Biden
The leader also said previously that he is genuinely undecided on which way he will vote.
Roy Blunt said Monday evening that there was a lot of damage done to the GOP's 'reputation' in the Capitol breach earlier this month, but stopped short of saying if he would vote to convict.
'What happened here two weeks ago was one of the great stains on the history of the country, in my view. It was outrageous. It was totally unforgivable.' Blunt told Norah O'Donnell on 'CBS Evening News' on Monday.
When asked about the potential of Trump using his last two days to pardon those involved in the storming of the Capitol two weeks ago, Blunt said: 'I think that'd be disastrous. I think what they did is unpardonable.'
The Missouri senator is one of the two lawmakers put in charge of the inauguration – along with Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
McConnell, in the rest of his remarks Tuesday, suggested business will go forward as usual – even as impeachment plows forward and Senate Republicans will lose their majority as the party split comes to 50-50 this month.
'Tomorrow President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be sworn in,' McConnell said, echoing other lawmakers' sentiments of a smoother-than-expected transition. 'We'll have a safe and successful inaugural right here on the west front of the Capitol, the space that President Bush 41 called 'democracy's front porch.' Then we'll move forward.'
'Our work for the American people will continue, as it has for more than 230 years,' he continued. 'There are serious challenges that our nation needs to continue confronting, but there will also be great and hopeful opportunities for us to seize.'
He voiced his concern that the federal legislator will be so closely split going into the 117th Congress.
'Certainly November's elections did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change,' McConnell said. 'Americans elected a closely divided Senate, a closely divided House, and a presidential candidate who said he'd represent everyone.'
Blunt, although condemning the violent descent on the Capitol by around 1,000 Trump supporters, did not say if he would vote to convict Trump of 'incitement of insurrection' when the article of impeachment reaches the Senate.
'THE PRESIDENT PROVOKED THE MOB WITH LIES.' READ MITCH McCONNELL'S FULL SENATE DENUNCIATION OF TRUMP
The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty.
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 of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.
But we pressed on. We stood together, and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation, not even for one night.
We certified the people's choice for their 46th president.
Tomorrow President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will be sworn in. We'll have a safe and successful inaugural right here on the west front of the Capitol, the space that President Bush 41 called ‘democracy's front porch.’ Then we'll move forward.
Our work for the American people will continue, as it has for more than 230 years. There are serious challenges that our nation needs to continue confronting, but there will also be great and hopeful opportunities for us to seize.
Certainly November's elections did not hand any side a mandate for sweeping ideological change. Americans elected a closely divided Senate, a closely divided House, and a presidential candidate who said he'd represent everyone.
So our marching orders from the American people are clear -- we're to have a robust discussion and seek common ground. We are to pursue bipartisan agreement everywhere we can and check and balance one another respectfully where we must.
And through all of this we must always keep in mind that we're all Americans. We all love this country, and we're all in this together.
Now, on a related matter, a great deal has already been said about the disgraceful events of January 6. More will be said in the weeks ahead. I understand the FBI has already made at least 100 arrests and the Justice Department reports more than 275 persons are under investigation, a number that is climbing fast.
I want to commend the work of the department to swiftly investigate and bring offenders to justice.
As I've stated, January 6 saw failures of institutions, protocols, and planning. Those failures did not just leave Congress itself exposed. They also left the courageous men and women of the Capitol Police themselves in a totally untenable situation.
So today I want to reaffirm the huge respect and gratitude that I have and I believe all senators have for the men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police, who put their own safety on the line every single day that they clock in and stand guard.
Neither the institution of Congress nor the American people will ever forget the bravery and the valor of Officer Brian Sicknick, who sacrificed himself to protect this place and those inside. We'll not forget our friend, Officer Howard Liebengood, and we'll never forget our debt to all the brave USCP officers and their families.
It is more than just comforting to come to work in a place protected by such fine men and women at risk to themselves. It is also very humbling.
We're also grateful to the local officers from D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, the federal law enforcement officers, the National Guard, the Secret Service, and all the other professionals who helped subdue the criminals and secure the Capitol and are working for peace this week.
Tomorrow a new president and vice president will swear their oaths of offices. They will also do so safely and securely because so many brave men and women have sworn their own oaths to support and defend our Constitution. We salute you all.
Republican Senator Roy Blunt called the Capitol storming two weeks ago 'one of the great stains on the history of the country' – he did not specifically condemn Donald Trump for any involvement in the attack
Blunt (right), along with Democrat Amy Klobcuhar (left), are in charge of Joe Biden's inauguration. Blunt said Trump pardoning any of those involved in the storming would be 'disastrous': 'I think what they did is unpardonable'
Blunt said small fixes, like repainting, had to take place to get the building ready for inauguration after the riots. Federal K-9 units sweep the building Tuesday before the ceremonies at the Capitol Wednesday
Instead of a massive crowd, this year 200,000 miniature flags occupy the National Mall where an audience would usually observe the inauguration
GOP SENATORS DEMOCRATS MIGHT CONVINCE TO CONVICT TRUMP
To get a two-thirds majority of every voting senator Democrats need at least 17 Republicans, assuming all Democrats vote to convict. None of the 50-member GOP caucus has said they will vote to convict. Here are some of those in play.
HATERS AND ESTABLISHMENT
Mitt Romney (Utah)
Voted to convict before and slammed Trump's actions after riot.
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Said Trump should quit over the riot. Already survived a primary defeat
Mitch McConnell (Kentucky)
Publicly OKed his caucus voting guilty and says he is genuinely undecided
Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)
Not running again and already condemned Trump's conduct
Richard Burr (North Carolina)
Not running and said Trump 'bears responsibility'
Ben Sasse (Nebraska)
Targeted before by Trump, slammed GOP leaders for violence already
Susan Collins (Maine)
Moderate who said when she acquitted first time Trump had 'learned a lesson'
John Thune (South Dakota)
Number two in the Senate caucus, already target of Trump demand for a primary
John Cornyn (Texas)
Just won Texas which is headed purple, not personally loyal to Trump
Roy Blunt (Missouri)
Called riot 'darkest stain' and 'unpardonable.' State GOP establishment is furious at Josh Hawley
Richard Shelby (Alabama)
At 86 considered unlikely to run again. Called riot 'dark day'
Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
Oldest GOP senator at 87 and unclear if he plans to run again
Kevin Cramer (North Dakota)
Said Trump voters 'want my head off' for not overturning election
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Called attack 'assault on democracy.' Up in 2022, never a Trump loyalist
James Inhofe (Oklahoma)
Apologized to black voters for planning to overturn election
Mike Lee (Utah)
Legal conservative, represents state where Trump wasn't personally popular
Thom Tillis (North Carolina)
Not up for election until 2026 in purple state
Marco Rubio (Florida)
Up in 2022 and could face Ivanka; convicting her father might help
Mike Braun (Indiana)
Friend of Mike Pence, could be moved by calls for him to 'hang'
House Democrats are preparing to deliver the impeachment article to the upper chamber this week as the Senate reconvenes Wednesday – and some are pushing for an immediate trial and vote on whether to convict Trump for his part in the January 6 chaos.
All Senate Democrats will need to vote in favor of convicting and at least 17 Republican will need to cross the line for a successful two-thirds vote. It is still not clear whether that many Republican senators will finally break ties with the president after he leaves Washington on Wednesday.
Democrats were pushing for Trump to resign or Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to get Trump out of office before his end date on Wednesday, January 20. When both of those options were exhausted, Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved forward with impeachment – and last Wednesday the House voted to impeach the president for a second time.
They claim Trump is the one to blame for the Capitol storming after he riled up thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House January 6 before they marched over to Capitol Hill and wreaked havoc on the building for six hours.
Trump condemned the violence and vowed following the riot that there would be a peaceful transition of power. He did not, however, concede that he lost the election to Joe Biden.
'Is there any doubt in your mind that there will be a peaceful transfer of power?' O'Donnell asked Blunt.
'No. No doubt at all,' he said. 'And I think we're gonna project to the world exactly the message we want to at this very spot where so many bad things happened two weeks ago. I think the world's gonna see the Constitution and the democracy of our country work.'
O'Donnell pressed Blunt on if he's disappointed that Trump won't attend the inauguration of Biden – like is tradition to do when one president exits and another enters.
'I think the president should have been here, and I'm disappointed,' Blunt said.
Blunt said not enough damage was done to the Capitol and there wasn't too much of a threat to move the inauguration to another location.
'This is not only a moment of importance, but the fact that we do it and where we do it matters,' Blunt said. 'And it's really important to maintain that sense of the continuity of both our Constitution and our democracy.'
':A lot of damage was done to our reputation, not much done to the building,' the Republican continued.
This year's inauguration, however, is anything but typical.
Biden will still be sworn in on the steps of the Capitol, but Trump will not be in attendance.
The massive crowd that usually attends an inauguration will also not be there, instead taking their place are nearly 200,000 miniature flags placed all over the National Mall.
The president-elect's inauguration was made private in light of the coronavirus pandemic and persistent threats to lawmakers and the incoming administration following the Capitol storming two weeks ago.
There will be a small, invite-only crowd seated socially-distant from each other.
As Biden faces the potential of his inauguration being split-screened with Trump's impending impeachment trial, it's still unclear how successful the efforts in the Senate will be.
So far, it appears Democrats have at least 13 Republicans they are looking to convince to vote to convict – and there seems to be five other 'wild cards' they are looking to flip.
Among those who could cross the aisle to vote for Trump's conviction are Senators Mitt Romney. The Utah Republican was the only GOP senator to vote to convict Trump on one of the two impeachment articles levied against him in 2019. Romney also has been an frequent Trump critic and has already slammed the president for his actions following the Capitol riot.
Here state and territory flags are seen on the National Mall to represent all areas of the U.S. during Biden's inauguration
Around 25,000 National Guard troops descended on Washington D.C. over the last two weeks as they were deployed there from all over the country to patrol the nation's capital in the wake of the chaos
Wild cards include the likes of Mike Lee of Utah, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida.
If Trump is convicted, the Senate can vote next on a ban from running for office in the future – perhaps a more impactful punishment considering Trump is very likely to launch a 2024 bid for the White House.