WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that he opposes leniency for those who pleaded guilty to committing crimes during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump.
McConnell made his remarks days after Trump said he would consider pardons for people convicted of joining the attack if elected to a second term in 2024.
“I would not be in favor of shortening any of the sentences for any of the people who pleaded guilty to crimes,” the top Senate Republican said at a news conference, when asked about Trump’s remarks at a rally on Saturday in Conroe, Texas.
“What we saw here on Jan. 6 was an effort to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, from one administration to another, which had never happened before in our country,” McConnell said.
A frequent target for Trump’s invective, McConnell also repeated his view that an 1887 law used as the basis for Republican Trump’s attempts to overturn his November 2020 election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden should be changed. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are moving toward possible enactment of reforms intended to prevent future attacks.
Thousands of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in the worst assault on Congress since the War of 1812. They were motivated by Trump’s false claims that the election was stolen from him through fraud.
McConnell also took issue with those claims. “The election of 2020 was decided December 14 of 2020, when the Electoral College certified the winner of the election,” he said.
At least 165 of the 725 people charged with taking part in the U.S. Capitol riot have pleaded guilty, according to the Justice Department.
During Saturday’s rally Trump also called for protests against prosecutors in New York and Georgia investigating him and his company.
(Reporting by David Morgan and Caitlin Webber; Editing by Tim Ahmann, Scott Malone and Grant McCool)