The Republican leader in the Senate blamed the Democrats’ push to impeach the president for distracting the government during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking Tuesday on The Hugh Hewitt Show, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell said the spread of COVID-19 that began in China “came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial.”
“I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything every day was all about impeachment,” McConnell said.
Trump has been criticized for downplaying the virus and responding too slowly.
The talking point has come up several times in recent weeks among conservatives, blaming President Trump’s slow response to the growing pandemic on the impeachment proceedings.
Writing in The Washington Post last week, former Justice Department lawyer Joshua Geltzer said, “The new talking point of President Trump’s media allies is that his lackluster response to the coronavirus isn’t his fault but the fault of those who pursued impeachment by distracting him.”
“Impeachment indicated how he would respond, from his refusal to face facts, his abuse of public trust for private gain and his sidelining of actual government expertise in favor of outside channels,” Geltzer said.
The U.S. House of Representatives sent the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate on Jan. 15, six days before the first case of the virus was reported in the United States.
President Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Feb. 5, when there were 12 confirmed cases in the U.S. The president declared a national state of emergency on March 13.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also made an appearance on the Hugh Hewitt Show on Tuesday.
“In mid-January and late-January, unfortunately, Washington, especially the Congress, was consumed with another matter — you may recall the partisan impeachment of the President,” Cotton said. “But I was focused on the time on what I thought was going to be a growing crisis coming out Wuhan.”