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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walking through the Capitol on Feb. 12. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told his fellow Senate Republicans in an email that he will vote to acquit former President Trump in his impeachment trial over the deadly U.S Capitol riot on Jan. 6, two sources familiar with the email told Axios.

Why it matters: McConnell's acquittal vote will likely shrink the number of Republicans who considered voting to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, making a conviction on the House's single charge of "incitement of insurrection" unlikely.

What they're saying: "As I have said for some time, today's vote is a vote of conscience and I know we will all treat it as such," McConnell said in the email, which was first reported by Politico's Burgess Everett.

  • "I have been asked directly by a number of you how I intend to vote, so thought it right to make that known prior to the final vote. While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we there lack jurisdiction."
  • "The Constitution makes 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.
  • "Given these conclusions, I will vote to acquit."

Context: Senators are expected to issue their final vote in the trial later on Saturday. Democrats would need to gain 17 Republican votes to convict the former president.

  • Trump's team has argued that the trial itself is unconstitutional and quickly concluded their defense on Friday.
  • House impeachment managers said Thursday that Trump repeatedly encouraged violence among his supporters and that encouragement affected not just lawmakers but the largely minority support staff who care for and protect them in the Capitol.

Trump was "thrilled" with his lawyers' performances on Friday — particularly by Michael van der Veen and David Schoen, both of whom "went full Trump," one person familiar with the situation told Axios.

Go deeper

Impeachment trial recap, day 4: Trump's team concludes speedy defense

Members of former President Donald Trumps defense team, David Schoen, center left, Michael van der Veen, center, and Bruce Castor, center right, arrive at the Capitol. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

Donald Trump's legal team argued four key points during its defense of the former president on Friday — all focused on process.

The big picture: The lawyers delivered a swift defense in which they called the House charge that the former president incited the Jan. 6 insurrection a "preposterous and monstrous lie." In their presentation, the defense team asserted that the trial itself is unconstitutional; there was no due process; convicting Trump violates his First Amendment rights; and impeachment fails to unify the country.

Updated Feb 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The daily highlights from Trump's 2nd Senate impeachment trial

Trucks with LED screens displaying anti-Trump messages in front of the Capitol. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

President Trump was acquitted by the Senate on Feb. 13 in his second impeachment trial, in which he was faced a single charge from the House of Representatives for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

The big picture: At five days, it was the fastest impeachment trial of a U.S. president and ended with the most bipartisan conviction vote in history. Still, the seven Republicans who joined all Democrats were not enough to reach the two-thirds majority necessary for conviction.

Updated Feb 12, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Inside Trump's impeachment defense

Trump defense attorneys Bruce Castor (left) and Michael van der Veen. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Donald Trump's legal defense will focus entirely on process, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The attorneys representing the former president know it's fruitless to continue defending his actions preceding the Capitol attack. Instead, they'll say none of that matters because the trial itself is unconstitutional — an argument many Republican senators are ready to embrace.

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