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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on Tuesday that the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was "provoked by the president and other powerful people."

Why it matters: Trump was impeached by the House last week for "incitement of insurrection." McConnell has not said how he will vote in Trump's coming Senate impeachment trial, but sources told Axios' Mike Allen that the chances of him voting to convict are higher than 50%.

  • A McConnell vote to convict would likely open the floodgates for other Republican senators to do the same.

The big picture: McConnell urged his colleagues not to delay certification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory on Jan. 6, calling it "the most important vote" he has ever cast. The riot at the Capitol resulted in five deaths, including a Capitol police officer.

What they're saying: "The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people, and they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding ... which they did not like," McConnell said on the Senate floor.

  • "But we pressed on. We stood together and said an angry mob would not get veto power over the rule of law in our nation."

Between the lines: Although McConnell has clearly distanced himself from Trump and his defenders, the GOP leader refused to acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect until December.

What to watch: McConnell said the House has not yet transmitted the article of impeachment to the Senate. The trial will begin the day after that happens.

Go deeper

Capitol Police officer who died after pro-Trump riot will lie in honor

A vigil honoring United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 28. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died in early January from injuries sustained while responding to the siege on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, will lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Friday evening.

Why it matters: Lying in honor is a final tribute reserved only for private citizens who have rendered distinguished service to the nation, according to the Architect of the Capitol.

Conservatives warn culture, political wars will worsen

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The verdict is clear: The vast majority of Republicans will stand firm with former President Trump. The next phase is clear, too: Republicans are rallying around a common grievance that big government, big media and big business are trying to shut them up, shut them out and shut them down. 

Why it matters: The post-Trump GOP, especially its most powerful media platforms, paint the new reality as an existential threat. This means political attacks are seen — or characterized — as assaults on their very being. 

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

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