The Democrats managed a first in the relatively short history of our republic during former President Donald Trump’s term: To impeach him…twice.
But like the first time, the second one looks like it’s going to turn out the same — without a conviction.
After initially appearing to waver in his support for the former president following the Jan. 6 riots and the historic second impeachment, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated he will not vote to convict Trump.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told GOP colleagues in a letter that he will vote to acquit Donald Trump in the former president’s impeachment trial, according to sources familiar with the communication.
McConnell’s announcement ends a long period of silence over whether he would consider convicting Trump for incitement of insurrection and could pave the way for many other Republicans to follow in acquittal. The Kentuckian shared his decision in a note to fellow GOP senators on Saturday morning, ahead of what could be the final day of Trump’s second impeachment trial.
“While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” McConnell wrote.
“The Constitution makes it perfectly clear that Presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office, which in my view alleviates the otherwise troubling ‘January exception’ argument raised by the House,” McConnell wrote to fellow Republicans.
Added Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) regarding McConnell’s decision: “He said it’s a vote of conscience. So I think each senator needs to make that decision on their own. Obviously, he’s reached that conclusion.”
Based on his comments over the past two months I really had no idea what he was going to do,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Republican leadership team, noted. “He said everybody should make this decision and their own and I guess he thought that that would apply to him as well.”
Last month the House voted 232–197 — a majority ‘yea’ vote that included 10 Republicans — to impeach Trump on a single count, “insurrection,” based on comments the former president said during a speech in Washington, D.C., ahead of Congress meeting to certify electoral votes.
“An insurrection—unlike a riot—is an organized movement acting for the express purpose to overthrow and take possession of a government’s powers,” his lawyers wrote in filings, further arguing that the language he used “was not an act encouraging an organized movement to overthrow the United States government.”
Trump urged supporters to go to the Capitol and “peacefully and patriotically” demonstrate against the certification.
But right after the House vote, McConnell communicated to GOP Senate colleagues that he had “not made a final decision” regarding how he planned to vote at the trial, which appeared to wrap up on Friday after the Trump defense team showed clip after video clip of Democrats actually trying to incite violence or excusing acts of violence when BLM and Antifa members were committing them.
But to most Republicans, there never was a constitutional path forward since Trump was already out of office and the only remedy for impeachment is removal from office.
Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah voted that the trial is constitutional, however — Cassidy being the big surprise here since the rest of the bunch are well-known RINOs.