Feb 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McConnell votes to acquit, then condemns Trump for Capitol siege

Senator Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Congress.gov via Getty Images

After voting to acquit Donald Trump, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemned the former president as "practically and morally responsible for provoking the events" on the day of the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol siege.

Why it matters: The Senate failed to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to convict Trump on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors, with a final vote of 57-43 cementing his acquittal. But in his post-vote speech, McConnell said Trump “didn’t get away with anything yet."

What he's saying: "Former President Trump’s actions preceding the riot were a disgraceful, disgraceful dereliction of duty,” McConnell said from the Senate floor.

  • Trump is “practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it,” he added.
  • "If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge. By the strict criminal standard, the president’s speech probably was not incitement."
  • "However, in the context of impeachment, the Senate might have decided this was acceptable shorthand for the reckless actions that preceded the riot. But in this case, the question is moot because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction."
  • “President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run. [He] didn’t get away with anything yet.”
  • "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation and former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one."
  • "I believe the Senate was right not to grab power the Constitution doesn’t give us. And the Senate was right not to entertain some light speed sham process to try to outrun the loss of jurisdiction."

Our thought bubble via Axios' Margaret Talev: McConnell's post-vote speech will be parsed and dissected until its impact reveals itself.

  • Democrats will be furious because he essentially made their case for impeachment while arguing against it on a thin constitutional argument. Trump will hate it for obvious reasons. 
  • Does it lead to a censure vote or 14th Amendment vote? Does a prosecutor try to use it in criminal court? Or is it just a way for him to try to have it both ways?

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