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OPINION

Snubbed by Capitol police family members, McConnell and McCarthy pay the price for loyalty to Trump

Both Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy stood with Donald Trump and the insurrection, not with the Capitol police who put their lives on the line to protect them. Yet there they were on Tuesday, trying to ingratiate themselves with the protectors they abandoned.

Charles and Gladys Sicknick, father and mother of US Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, were greeted by Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, center, with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, at right, during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring law enforcement officers who defended the US Capitol during the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, Dec. 6. The members of the Sicknick family declined to shake hands with McConnell and McCarthy.Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

It was eloquent. It was powerful. It was more than a snub. It was an indictment for the world to see of all the cowardice and moral corrosion that comes with fealty to Donald Trump.

During a presentation of Congressional Gold Medals, family members of Capitol police Officer Brian Sicknick, who died a day after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, refused to shake hands with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. After the ceremony, Ken Sicknick, the brother of Brian Sicknick, explained the reason for the shunning: “They came out right away and condemned what happened on January 6 and — whatever hold that Trump has on them — they’ve backstepped, they’ve danced,” he told CBS News. “They won’t admit to wrongdoing — not necessarily them themselves, but of Trump, of the rioters.” Unlike outgoing Republican Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, he added, “they have no idea what integrity is. They can’t stand up for what’s right. With them, it’s party first.”

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Dec. 6, 2022, will go down in history as a bad day for Trump. The Trump Organization was convicted of tax fraud and other crimes. The chairman of the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol indicated there will be criminal referrals to the Justice Department, which means Trump’s quest to overturn the 2020 election results and retain power have the potential to be deemed a crime. Meanwhile, Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate Trump handpicked to run for a Georgia Senate seat, lost to Democrat incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock. Zeroing in on those election results, Scott Jennings, a CNN commentator and former adviser to McConnell, tweeted “Georgia may be remembered as the state that broke Trump once and for all.”

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But what happened during the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony also made it a bad day for McConnell and McCarthy. Sicknick’s relatives were not the only ones to spurn them. Other police officers and family members did the same. What politician wishes to endure such public humiliation? Yet throughout their craven embrace of Trump, both McConnell and McCarthy have already endured so much — what’s a little more?

As Ken Sicknick pointed out, both Republican leaders initially condemned what happened on Jan. 6. In remarks on the House floor, McCarthy said “The violence, destruction, and chaos we saw earlier was unacceptable, undemocratic, and un-American.” McConnell called it “a violent insurrection for the purpose of trying to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election from one administration to the next.” Both backed down afterward and blocked all efforts to hold Trump accountable.

Sicknick, who was attacked with chemical spray during the attack on the Capitol, died the next day after suffering two strokes. More than 100 officers were injured. At least four police officers who defended the Capitol during the attack have since died by suicide.

Both McConnell and McCarthy stood with Trump and insurrectionists, not with the Capitol police who put their lives on the line to protect them. Yet there they were on Tuesday, trying to ingratiate themselves with the guardians they abandoned.

US Capitol Police Officer Brian D. Sicknick, 42, died the day after the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol.Salwan Georges/The Washington Post

In remarks during the Gold Medal presentation, McCarthy said: “To all the law enforcement officers who keep this country safe: thank you.” He added: “Too many people take that for granted, but days like today force us to realize how much we owe the thin blue line.”

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McConnell said, “Because of your bravery and professionalism, Congress finished our job that very night. Because you honored your oaths to support and defend the Constitution, we were able to honor ours. … Thank you for having our backs. Thank you for saving our country. Thank you for being not just our friends, but our heroes.”

But Gladys Sicknick, the mother of Brian Sicknick, stood ready to call out McConnell and McCarthy for the blatant hypocrites they are. “They’re just two-faced,” she told CNN. “I’m just tired of them standing there and saying how wonderful the Capitol police is and then they turn around and go down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss his ring and come back.”

She added: “It just, it just hurts.”

A mother’s hurt is the price of loyalty to Trump. How much more are Republicans like McConnell and McCarthy willing to pay?


Joan Vennochi is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at joan.vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @joan_vennochi.