Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky informed colleagues in an email Saturday morning that he will vote to acquit Donald Trump on the charge of inciting a deadly insurrection, despite admitting less than two weeks after the January 6 assault that the former president "provoked" the right-wing mob.
McConnell hid behind a procedural justification for his decision, echoing a position that many of his Republican colleagues have taken despite the Senate's vote reaffirming the constitutionality of the trial earlier this week.
"While a close call," McConnell wrote, "I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction."
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted in response to news of McConnell's decision that "it is disappointing but not at all surprising that Trump's worst enablers will stand with him."
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"McConnell's failure to put the needs of the country before partisan politics will define his legacy, and shape the future of a Republican Party increasingly embracing authoritarianism," wrote Beyer. "McConnell kept the trial from starting until Trump had left office. Now McConnell says he won’t convict Trump because he is no longer in office.
"Pure cynical partisanship to let Trump get away with inciting the attack on the Capitol, and all the death and destruction it caused," Beyer added.
A final verdict in the Trump impeachment trial could come this weekend. A two-thirds vote is required to convict.
McConnell's email came after a more than 190 legal scholars published an open letter urging senators not to "rely solely on a procedural argument that has already been voted down by this body, and certainly not on legal sophistry."
"It is now your turn to honor your oath as you weigh the evidence and arguments presented, even though it may require you to put our Constitution and the rule of law ahead of your own political allegiances," the letter reads. "The eyes of the entire nation and future generations are upon you. Will you stand true to your oath?"