According to Sen. Mitt Romney, McConnell told Republicans to “vote your conscience.” The Utah Republican said that McConnell “has not in any way tried to pressure folks to go one way or another.” That’s not enough for Johnson and the more circumspect Republicans who aren’t showing their hands right now. They want him to fight the upcoming trial and protect their leader. So the old days of the Republican civil war between Trump and McConnell are back. Which is fun.
The part that isn’t fun is that these Republicans are still downplaying the insurrectionist attack of January 6, when the lives of their colleagues—and former Vice President Mike Pence!—were very much threatened. Republican Rep. John Katko, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee and one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach, has hinted at just how dangerous the situation was without revealing any classified information he’s received in intelligence briefings.
“I’ve had a lot of classified briefings on it, and it’s deeply troubling,” Katko said in an interview with local press this week. “I was left with a profound sense that it was much worse than people realized.” Bad enough that he is behind the effort to create a 9/11 type commission that has subpoena power to investigate. “There are a lot of unanswered questions here, from possible security lapses to who was involved and when they were involved,” Katko said. “We need to have a full stem to stern look back on this to see what happened, how it happened, the sequence of events, who contributed to it, and how we make sure it never happens again.” McConnell would have also been getting these briefings, and so would Johnson, who is the outgoing chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
McConnell is smart enough to recognize the threat to the Republican Party—including losing lots and lots of funding from big donors who don’t want to be associated with the rabble that tried to overthrow Congress—posed by the insurrection and its aftermath. There will be an aftermath because there will be a commission that investigates it. There will also be more arrests and more court proceedings that uncover what happened behind the scenes. Johnson hasn’t caught up with that eventuality yet.