McConnell rebukes RNC, calls Jan. 6 ‘violent insurrection’

McConnell rebukes RNC, calls Jan. 6 ‘violent insurrection’
The Senate minority leader is the highest-ranking Republican to criticise the censure of Reps Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday hit back at his own party’s censure of Reps Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for serving on the panel investigating the 6 January 2021 attack on the Capitol, which infamously called the pro-Trump riot “legitimate political discourse”.

Speaking at a weekly media availability, Mr McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, took issue with the party’s characterisation of the House select committee’s work as “persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse”.

“We saw it happen — it was a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election, from one administration to the next,” he said. “That’s what it was”.

The Senate minority leader also noted that the “traditional” view of the national committee’s role was to “support all members of our party, regardless of their positions on some issues”.

“The issue is whether or not the R.N.C. should be sort of singling out members of our party who may have different views of the majority,” he said. “That’s not the job of the RNC”.

Mr McConnell’s willingness to criticise his own party and condemn the pro-Trump mob which stormed the Capitol in hopes of keeping Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win has set him apart from his GOP colleagues in the House of Representatives.

The House GOP conference chair, New York Rep Elise Stefanik, refused to condemn the riot — the worst attack on the Capitol since British troops set it ablaze in 1814 — without qualifying her criticism by equating the attack to the racial justice protests which swept the country during the summer of 2020.

“Republicans have been very clear, we condemn the violence on Jan. 6. We also condemn the violence in 2020 as violent criminals attacked federal buildings including parts of Washington, DC,” said Ms Stefanik, who called the nine-member House panel “political theater about punishing partisan opponents”.

While the House GOP — save for Ms Cheney and Mr Kinzinger — remains in lockstep behind former president Donald Trump and his continuing campaign of lies about the 2020 election, other Senate Republicans have also been willing to speak out against the censure of their House colleagues.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee and the uncle of RNC chair Ronna McDaniel, said Monday that suggesting “a violent attack on the seat of democracy is legitimate political discourse” would be “so far from accurate as to … make people wonder what we’re thinking”.

“Anything that my party does that comes across as being stupid is not going to help us,” he added.

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, also disagreed with the idea that the Capitol riot — which left more than 100 police officers injured and caused more than a million dollars worth of damage — was “legitimate political discourse”.

“To say otherwise is absurd,” she said.