Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday he will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump on a charge of inciting the riot on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol, saying his decision is “a close call.”
“I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal, and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” the Kentucky Republican told GOP colleagues in an email, noting that Mr. Trump is no longer in office.
Mr. McConnell said the Constitution “makes perfectly clear that presidential criminal conduct 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 [impeachment managers].”
“Given these conclusions, I will vote to acquit,” he said.
His announcement came on what is expected to be the final day of the trial, in which Mr. Trump’s acquittal is virtually assured.
There had been speculation that Mr. McConnell might vote to convict the former president. People close to him have said he has been furious at Mr. Trump over the riot.
The Senate is continuing the impeachment trial on Saturday with closing arguments, and is expected to hold a final vote on the verdict later in the afternoon.
A conviction in the impeachment trial requires a two-thirds majority vote by the Senate, which both sides agree won’t be reached.
Democrats were hoping to proceed after a possible conviction to a vote on disqualifying Mr. Trump from office. But with most Republicans opposed to convicting Mr. Trump, Democrats have been looking for alternative resolutions that would bar him from running in 2024.
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