GOP leader Mitch McConnell defends Senate vote to acquit Trump in WSJ op-ed

  • Mitch McConnell in a Wall Street Journal op-ed defended the Senate’s vote to acquit Donald Trump.
  • “Our job was to defend the Constitution and respect its limits,” he said.
  • The effort to convict Trump for “incitement of insurrection” fell short by a 57–43 margin.
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Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Monday, defended the Senate’s vote to acquit Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial while also rebuking the former president’s actions on January 6.

“There is no question former President Trump bears moral responsibility,” the Kentucky Republican wrote of the deadly Capitol riot that claimed five lives. “His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world’s largest megaphone.”

He continued: “I was as outraged as any member of Congress. But senators take our own oaths. Our job wasn’t to find some way, any way, to inflict a punishment. The Senate’s first and foundational duty was to protect the Constitution.”

Many had believed that McConnell would vote to impeach Trump. The Senate Majority Leader had several times rebuked Trump for his involvement in the January 6 riots. 

But McConnell argued that Trump’s status as a private citizen did not grant him the authority to convict the former president under the Constitution.

“Impeachment is not some final moral tribunal,” he wrote. “It is a specific tool with a narrow purpose: restraining government officers. The instant Donald Trump ceased being the president, he exited the Senate’s jurisdiction.”

The effort to convict Trump for “incitement of insurrection” fell short by a 57–43 margin. A conviction required two-thirds of the Senate, or 67 votes.

Read more: GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger on recognizing the QAnon threat and not fearing a GOP primary challenger for voting to impeach Trump

Seven Republicans joined all 50 Senate Democrats to support the former president’s conviction, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

“I respect senators who reached the opposite answer,” McConnell wrote. “What deserve no respect are claims that constitutional concerns are trivialities that courageous senators would have ignored.”

McConnell also sought to temper criticism that he could have scheduled the impeachment trial in January before President Joe Biden took office, arguing that such a process would have been “rushed.”

“They think we should have shredded due process and ignited a constitutional crisis in a footrace to outrun our loss of jurisdiction,” he wrote.

After the final vote on Saturday, McConnell blasted Trump on the Senate floor, suggesting that the former president could be subject to further litigation outside of Congress’s purview.

“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 said at the time. “He didn’t get away with anything yet.”

However, in the op-ed, McConnell made it clear that the upper chamber’s constitutional concerns were paramount.

“The Senate’s duty last week was clear,” he wrote. “It wasn’t to guarantee a specific punishment at any cost. Our job was to defend the Constitution and respect its limits. That is what our acquittal delivered.”

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