Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday broke with former President Donald Trump on Tuesday, saying that he does not believe individuals who pleaded guilty to crimes related to last year’s violent Capitol Hill protest should have their sentences shortened, Fox News reports.
"165 people have pleaded guilty to criminal behavior," McConnell said when asked about Trump’s recent suggestion that he would issue pardons for the Capitol Hill rioters if he were re-elected as president. "None of the trials have been finished yet, but 165 have pleaded guilty to criminal behavior. My view is, I would not be in favor of shortening any of the sentences for any of the people who pleaded guilty to crimes."
McConnell added that the 2020 election was "decided on December 14 of 2020 when the Electoral College certified the winner of the election" and that the protesters were attempting to stop a peaceful transition of power, which had "never happened before in our country."
McConnell’s comments came after Trump told supporters at a rally in Texas that he is open to issuing pardons for the jailed protesters.
“If I run and I win, we will treat those people from Jan. 6 fairly,” Trump told the crowd in Saturday night’s rally. “We will treat them fairly, and if it requires pardons, we will give them pardons because they are being treated so unfairly.”
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also distanced himself from Trump’s comments and called them “inappropriate.”
“No, I don't want to send any signal that it was OK to defile the Capitol,” Graham said.
“There are other groups with causes that may want to go down to the violent path that these people get pardoned,” he added. “I think it's inappropriate. ... I don't want to do anything that would make this more likely in the future.”
More than 700 people have been arrested as part of the investigation into the riot last January 6 that left five people dead.
The founder of the far-right group Oath Keepers and 10 others were recently indicted for seditious conspiracy in assault on the Capitol.
Trump has repeatedly spoken out against the prosecution of those who took part in the riot, but had yet to put pardons on the table before his Saturday rally.
The former president has been accused of stoking the Capitol violence with a fiery speech claiming election fraud, and was impeached by the House of Representatives on a charge of incitement to insurrection. However, the Senate acquitted Trump after it fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict him.