Yet most could not bring themselves to find him guilty of sparking the chaos, brutality and darkness that engulfed the Capitol, for fear of potentially offending the Trump supporters Republicans have come to rely on to win elections, and will need again in 2022 if they hope to regain the Senate — a paramount goal of Mr. McConnell’s.
They offered myriad justifications. Like Mr. McConnell, they said it was unconstitutional given that Mr. Trump was no longer president. They said Mr. Trump used the fiery, pugnacious language all politicians employ. The timeline was fuzzy. Prosecutors could not tie him explicitly to the start of the riot. Bad precedents would be set. Democrats were acting out of political malice. This was a matter for criminal courts. They said he was not the only one who contributed to the toxic environment.
“He has some responsibility, as do many of the people in that chamber today,” said Senator Thom Tillis, Republican of North Carolina.
Democrats said they were stunned that most Republicans would effectively give Mr. Trump a pass for bringing about the assault, particularly since it was aimed at the Senate itself.
“It is shocking,” said Senator Michael Bennet, Democrat of Colorado.
“As strong as the indictment of Donald Trump, it is also an indictment of Republicans,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut. “Neither has been convicted in a legal sense, but in a moral and political sense they have. How they can try to walk away and look the other way is beyond me.”
In his remarks on Saturday, Mr. McConnell characterized his delay in recognizing Mr. Biden as defending “the president’s right to bring any complaints to our legal system. The legal system spoke.” But rather than ending his push to undermine the election, Mr. McConnell said, it “just really opened a new chapter of even wilder, wilder and more unfounded claims.”
“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,” he said.