Anyone who ever wondered what the phrases “tying yourself up in knots” and “gaslighting” mean need look no further than U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Sadly, what McConnell did, rather than said, may come back to bite Americans in the backside.

While Donald Trump was still president, the U.S. House of Representatives impeached him for inciting the mob violence that threatened members of Congress, Vice President Mike Pence and the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The violence also killed five people and injured around 130 Capitol and Metropolitan police officers.

The trial, like the impeachment, could have happened before Trump left office. It didn’t. McConnell refused to keep the Senate in session. That timing was McConnell’s call.

After the Senate failed to convict Trump in this second impeachment trial, falling short of the two-thirds vote required to do so, McConnell explained his not-guilty vote.

“There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day,” he said. He reiterated that these had been his feelings since the day of the attack on Congress.

The mob was following what they believed to be Trump’s wishes. That belief was understandable given Trump’s past language and his wild and unfounded claims of election fraud.

“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,” McConnell said.

He noted that the former president could have ended the attack but chose not to. “Predictably and foreseeably under the circumstances, members of the mob seemed to interpret this as further inspiration to lawlessness and violence.”

Those sentiments should have supported the assumption that McConnell would vote to hold Trump responsible for violating his presidential oath. Instead, the most influential Republican in the Senate reasoned himself into voting to acquit.

McConnell then tied himself into legalese knots using constitutional justifications. “We have no power to convict and disqualify a former officeholder who is now a private citizen,” he said.

In other words, since Trump was out of office by the time of the Senate trial, it was too late.

Americans are expected to ignore the fact that McConnell is the one who made certain the trial could not be held while the former president was still in office. This is textbook gaslighting.

Unless voters reject politicians who hide behind knot-tying rationalizations and gaslighting excuses, autocrats will appear again to bite us in the backside.

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