Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Never Forget: Mitch McConnell Underwrote Trump’s Big Lie

When power was at stake, McConnell helped the people pushing the lie that led to the Capitol insurrection.
January 19, 2021
Never Forget: Mitch McConnell Underwrote Trump’s Big Lie
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood in the chamber that rioters ransacked last week and declared, “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 of the first branch of the federal government which they did not like.”

This assessment is correct. One of the “powerful people” who fed the mob lies was Mitch McConnell.

Because the dirty open secret is that the entire GOP establishment—including Trump skeptics such as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan—was eager to support Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue as they campaigned on those very same lies about the presidential election.

Why? Because of power. Republicans hoped that they could ride those lies to retain control of the U.S. Senate.

Never forget that the insurrection of January 6 did not start on January 6. Yes, Donald Trump stood before the mob on the morning of January 6 and urged them to march on the Capitol. But the mob gathering was planned in advance. And even before that, the ground was seeded for weeks on end by elected Republicans attesting to the lie that Donald Trump was the legitimate winner of the presidential election and calling for the results to be overturned, by hook or by crook.

So if President Trump is to blame for inciting the violence—and he is—then so are they.

Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue were clear they were on the president’s side when it came to his false claims of a stolen election.

Two days after the election was called for Biden, Loeffler and Perdue issued a joint statement calling on Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign over unnamed “failures.” After Georgia Governor Brian Kemp certified the state’s results, “Stop the Steal” rallies materialized in front of the state capitol and outside his home. Outside agitators such as Lin Wood and Sidney Powell began battering the state with bogus lawsuits and rallies.

The pressure got so intense that on December 1, election official Gabriel Sterling held a news conference to warn that “someone’s going to get killed” over all the nonsense. His warning was proven correct.

Even after Sterling’s stern rebuke, Loeffler and Perdue stayed by Trump’s side.

On December 5, Trump held a rally in Valdosta with Loeffler and Perdue in which he continued to push his lies about the election. Proud Boys from New Jersey were in the audience. “Stop the Steal” merchandise was sold. And Loeffler and Perdue smiled and clapped along when Trump told the crowd, “You know we won Georgia.”

Loeffler had an important debate against her opponent, Raphael Warnock, the next day. During it, she repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Biden had won the election.

It was all completely clear how Loeffler and Perdue were campaigning. They were happy to go along with Trump’s big lie if it might help them retain their offices.

As they did so, Super PACs aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—American Crossroads and the Senate Leadership Fund—spent tens of millions of dollars on ads to assist the senators.

Politico reported in early December that “Republicans are digging deep into donor pockets” to help the Georgia senators, tapping “into the full national network of Republican donors.” Veteran GOP operative Karl Rove led efforts with full backing from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Senators Rick Scott, Mike Crapo, Lindsey Graham, Tim Scott, Todd Young, Ben Sasse, Joni Ernst, Chuck Grassley, and Jon Barrasso boosted fundraising activities.

“Everyone is singing from the same sheet of music, which is encouraging,” one Republican working on the runoffs told Politico. Indeed, several other senators raced to the Peach State to stump for Loeffler and Perdue. Senators Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, Josh Hawley, and possible 2024 presidential contenders Nikki Haley and Kristi Noem all made appearances in the state.

Although one of these members would occasionally try to turn the discussion to coronavirus and stimulus checks, “Stop the Steal” was the focus of the national discussion. On December 8, the Texas attorney general filed a bogus lawsuit against Georgia and Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. One-hundred twenty-six Republicans in the House of Representatives signed a letter of support. On December 10, the Conservative Action Project issued an open letter falsely claiming “there is no doubt President Donald J. Trump is the lawful winner of the presidential election. Joe Biden is not president-elect.” It called on state legislators in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Michigan to “exercise their plenary power under the Constitution and appoint a clean slate of electors to the Electoral College to support President Trump.”

As essentially the entire Republican establishment was calling Georgia’s presidential vote fraudulent and agitating for it to be overturned, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue had nothing to say in defense of their state’s voters. In fact, they campaigned with the same people calling for the disenfranchisement of Georgia voters and agreed with them.

For his part, Mitch McConnell does not seem to have done much of anything to stop this train until December 31, when he tried to warn senators against objecting to Biden’s certification during a conference call.

By then, it was much too late.

McConnell, through his silence and complicity, permitted Trump to unfurl his election conspiracies for weeks. And, McConnell helped by throwing his full backing behind the Georgia candidates who amplified, legitimized, and took those lies straight into the heart of the United States Capitol.

On January 4—a day before the run-offs—both Perdue and Loeffler declared that they supported the effort to object to certifying Biden’s election. And so long as they still had a chance to deliver him his Senate majority, Mitch McConnell had nothing publicly to say about this.

Loeffler and Perdue put their names to this vile, anti-democratic plan. And the entire GOP establishment put its money and support behind them.

For the Republican party, principle is only something you worry about after you’ve lost power.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.