McConnell Says Trump Caused Insurrection, But Votes To Acquit Anyway

Feb 14, 2021

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell
Credit NPR

  Both of Kentucky’s U.S. senators voted to acquit Donald Trump on charges that he incited the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Yet Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell capped off his vote with a winding explanation of why the former president should be blamed for the insurrection, but shouldn’t be convicted for it.

“President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day, no question about it,” McConnell said during a speech on the Senate floor.

“The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president.”

But, McConnell continued, the Senate couldn’t convict Trump on impeachment charges because the House delivered the official articles of impeachment after Trump left office on Jan. 20.

“If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the house managers proved their specific charge,” McConnell said.

The House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, but wasn’t able to deliver the impeachment papers until after Inauguration Day because McConnell refused to bring the Senate back into session for a trial.

McConnell defended his decision, saying a “Senate verdict before Inauguration Day would not have been possible.”

There was a seven-day window between when the House voted to impeach Trump on Jan. 13 and when Trump left office on Jan. 20.

The impeachment trial that ended Saturday took five days.

Only 57 senators voted to convict Trump, 10 votes short of the threshold needed to convict a president during an impeachment trial.

McConnell and Kentucky’s junior Sen. Rand Paul were among the 43 senators, all Republicans, who voted to acquit the former president.

And though Paul had long signaled he was against convicting Trump, McConnell left many wondering how he would vote. Especially after last month, when McConnell publicly blamed Trump for provoking his supporters to march on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

McConnell ended his speech ominously, leaving open the possibility that Trump could still be tried in court.

“President Trump is still liable for everything he did when he was in office, as an ordinary citizen,” McConnell said.

“He didn’t get away with anything, yet.”