Senate Republican leader: Donald Trump is 'practically and morally responsible' for Capitol riot

Mitch McConnell said Donald Trump may yet face justice, despite a failed second impeachment vote

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks about former U.S. President Donald Trump, accusing him of dereliction of duty, immediately after the U.S. Senate voted to acquit Trump by a vote of 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, short of the 2/3s majority needed to convict, during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2021.  U.S. Senate TV/Handout via Reuters EDITORIAL USE ONLY NO COMMERCIAL SALES
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Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell delivered a damning speech accusing Donald Trump of being "practically and morally responsible" for the attack on the Capitol, after the Kentucky senator voted to acquit the former president on the impeachment charge.

This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president

Speaking on the Senate floor minutes after he voted to declare Mr Trump not guilty, Mr McConnell said the mob attacked the Capitol on January 6 because "they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth, because he was angry he had lost an election".

Mr McConnell’s words followed weeks of the minority leader suggesting Republicans should vote according to their conscience – leaving open the chance that even he may vote to convict Mr Trump.

In the end, however, Mr McConnell did not, saying he interpreted the Constitution as limiting impeachment only to current officeholders.

Democrats responded that he was being hypocritical.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Mr McConnell of giving "a very disingenuous speech" since Mr McConnell, while still majority leader, had denied a request by Democrats to start the trial while Mr Trump was still the president.

“It was not the reason he voted the way he did,“ Ms Pelosi said. “It was his excuse.”

In the end, seven of Mr McConnell’s fellow Republicans voted to convict Mr Trump.

While this was short of the 17 needed to convict him on the single charge of inciting the January 6 riot, it was still the largest number of members of the president's party who ever voted to convict in an impeachment trial.

‘American Justice’

Even though Mr McConnell, who turns 79 in one week, voted to acquit Mr Trump in the impeachment court, he pointedly added that former presidents can be subject to criminal and civil litigation, and that Mr Trump “didn’t get away with anything yet – yet.”

“Impeachment was never meant to be the final forum for American justice,” Mr McConnell said.

“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office.”

Mr McConnell said Mr Trump bore responsibility not just for his January 6 speech, but also for “the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe” that preceded it.

“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,” Mr McConnell said.

“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."

By putting the blame for the Capitol attack squarely on Mr Trump, Mr McConnell appeared to be trying to close the chapter of the former president’s control over the Republican Party.

Mr McConnell, who was the Senate majority leader for nearly all of Mr Trump’s term, had refrained from publicly criticising Mr Trump and easily won re-election in November, in part, by touting their joint accomplishments.