Mitch McConnell blamed Donald Trump for last week’s siege on Capitol Hill, saying the crowd was “fed on lies” and “provoked by the president” before the violent attack that left five people dead.
The flank was delivered on Mr. Trump’s last day in the White House and on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th US president.
“The crowd was fed on lies. They were brought on by the president and other powerful figures, ”said Mr. McConnell, the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, in a speech. “And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding from the first branch of the federal government that they didn’t like.
Mr. Trump, who refused to admit he lost the November presidential election, is due to leave Washington on Wednesday morning for his resort town of Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Breaking from the previous one, he will not attend Mr. Biden’s swearing-in or welcome the new president and the first lady to the White House.
Mr. McConnell, as Senate Majority Leader, has worked with the President for most of the past four years. But he broke with Mr. Trump over his role in the Capitol Hill seat and kept the option of voting to convict Mr. Trump in an impeachment trial that would take place in the Senate after the president leaves.
Last week, Mr. Trump became the first president in U.S. history to be twice impeached after the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted to charge him with inciting insurgency . The House Democrats were joined by 10 House Republicans, including Liz Cheney, in this vote.
Mr McConnell will be demoted to Senate Minority Leader from Wednesday, when Kamala Harris is sworn in as vice president and two Georgia Democrats – Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff – are sworn in as U.S. senators .
Mr Warnock and Mr Ossoff’s victories in the hotly contested second round of the Senate this month have given Democrats the smallest possible majority in the upper house of Congress, which will be divided by 50 to 50, with Ms Harris able to vote for the tie-breaker. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York, will become the majority leader.
“Tomorrow, President-elect Biden and Vice-President-elect Harris will be sworn in,” McConnell added. “We will have a safe and successful inauguration right here on the Western Front of the Capitol.”
Tens of thousands of armed law enforcement agencies, including some 25,000 members of the National Guard, protect the Capitol, the White House and other landmarks in Washington ahead of Wednesday’s inauguration.
“Our work for the American people will continue as it has for over 230 years. There are serious challenges that our nation must continue to face, ”said Mr. McConnell.
Mr. Biden, who will be the second Catholic president in U.S. history, is said to have invited Mr. McConnell to attend church with him on Wednesday morning before his swearing-in, alongside other congressional leaders, including Mr. Schumer; Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House; and Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican Minority Leader.