LOUISVILLE, Ky. — On his last day in the role before becoming minority leader, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell pointed fingers at President Trump, directly accusing him of playing a role in the January 6th insurrection of the U.S. Capitol.
"The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people," he said.
Leader McConnell said there will be a safe transfer of power on Wednesday as President-Elect Joe Biden is sworn in.
"We'll move forward. Our work for the American people will continue, as it has for more than 230 years," McConnell continued. "Americans elected a closely divided senate, a closely divided house and a presidential candidate who said he'd represent everyone."
Senator McConnell went on to say the "marching orders" from the American people are to now find bipartisan agreement and seek "common ground."
"This is by far and away the most extreme and dramatic break between McConnell and Trump that has been seen publicly," UofL professor and constitutional law expert Sam Marcosson said. "I am hard pressed to remember a time when a congressional leader of a party broke this decisively and publicly and harshly from a president of his or her own party."
Marcosson said Tuesday's floor speech signals a "traumatic break," adding that he believes McConnell's "willingness to continue to bite his tongue" and not publicly criticize President Trump "evaporated."
"Today may reflect some reflection he had done about how he handled the post-election period," Marcosson said. "All of that suggests to me he is not just frustrated and not just angry but really believes serious misconduct occurred here that caused great damage to our political system."
McConnell's speech prompted Nelson County GOP leaders to hold an emergency meeting, voting unanimously to issue a resolution censuring the senate majority leader for his comments.
"This has shown his true colors," Nelson Co. GOP Chairman Don Thrasher said. "We felt today during his floor speech on the senate where he impugned the character of President Trump was unacceptable to us. his whole behavior overall through this whole process of the last week is not consistent with what he promised us when he was running for re-election."
McConnell hasn't said how he will vote in the second impeachment trial of President Trump, but has said it's a "vote of conscience" and will be based on facts. But in light of the impending impeachment trial in the Senate, Thrasher has also proposed a resolution calling on McConnell to vote to acquit Trump.
"Basically calling for Senator McConnell to support President Trump and denounce the second impeachment as divisive," Thrasher said.
"I have at least 50 other chairs and vice chairs that have signed on for our resolution," Thrasher said. "this is a deal-breaker for a lot of Republicans."
Kentucky's GOP central committee will meet for a specially-called meeting Sat. Jan 23 to discuss and vote on the resolution, introduced by Thrasher. There are over 300 members, which included county GOP chairs and vice chairs, as well as all republican elected state officials.
According to Thrasher, the process for special meetings requires a 15% quorum to start the meeting and anyone who attends the meeting will be eligible to vote. A simple majority of those present and voting would be enough to pass the resolution.
"These comments may suggest there are some divisions that the Republicans will have to work through before they can start to be unified again," Marcosson said.
Marcosson said McConnell's comments indicate the second impeachment trial of President Trump will look "very, very different" than the first. His comments, according to Marcosson, signal the majority leader wants to keep "an open mind."
"But when you say the president has lied about something so significant and that his lies about the election have incited people to violence against the orderly process of government, it's hard to see how you back away from that. It's hard to see how that doesn't lead you to a vote to convict," Marcosson said.
McConnell's office on Tuesday night said it didn't have any further comments in regards to the actions taken by Nelson Co. GOP.