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McConnell: Capitol rioters were 'provoked' by Trump, 'fed lies'

Were it not for Trump's ridiculous lie, there wouldn't have been an attack on the Capitol. The more Republicans acknowledge this, the better.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks alongside Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., right, in Washington on Dec. 15, 2020.Tom Brenner / Pool via AFP - Getty Images

In his first remarks on the floor since Senate reconvened this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) briefly reflected on what members were up to the last time they were on Capitol Hill.

"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," McConnell said. "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," he added.

On the surface, the fact that the Senate GOP leader believes the violent mob that attacked the Capitol was "provoked" by Trump is itself notable: by his own admission, McConnell is considering voting to convict Trump in the upcoming impeachment trial. This morning's prepared remarks reinforce the Kentuckian's apparent vexation with his party's outgoing president.

But just as important, if not more so, was McConnell's use of the word "lies."

To be sure, the Republicans' Senate leader relied a bit on passive voice: he said the Capitol attackers were "fed lies," but didn't say who, exactly, was doing the feeding.

Regardless, I see real value in the cultivation of a consensus: were it not for a ridiculous lie, there would not have been a deadly insurrectionist attack at the heart of our nation's democracy. And the more Republican officials acknowledge this simple fact, the healthier it is for our political system.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) conceded that Trump "perpetrated false rhetoric" and "was not honest" with the American people. Soon after, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) acknowledged that Trump "misled" the public with his anti-election rhetoric.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added this morning, "I do believe that it's important for us as Republicans, in particular, to point out that the big lie is simply that: a lie. Joe Biden won the election, fair and square."

I've never agreed with Romney more: it really is important for Republicans to point out that the big lie is, in fact, a lie.

Is the rest of the Senate GOP conference prepared to acknowledge this reality?