Mitch McConnell Says He’s Open to Convicting Trump in a Senate Impeachment Trial

"I have not made a final decision on how I will vote, and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate," the Republican Senate majority leader wrote to his colleagues.
January 13, 2021, 9:07pm
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., adjusts his face mask as he participates in a mock swearing-in for the 117th Congress with Vice President Mike Pence in the Old Senate Chambers at the U.S.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., adjusts his face mask as he participates in a mock swearing-in for the 117th Congress with Vice President Mike Pence in the Old Senate Chambers at the U.S. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

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The Senate might end up convicting President Trump in an impeachment trial after all. 

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell broke his silence about Trump’s impeachment on Wednesday to say he’s open to the prospect of voting against Trump in a Senate trial after the anticipated impeachment vote in the House on Wednesday.  

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According to several media outlets, McConnell sent a note to his GOP colleagues that said “while the press has been full of speculation, I have not made a final decision on how I will vote and I intend to listen to the legal arguments when they are presented to the Senate.”

McConnell’s words carry enormous weight in the Senate. Although the wily GOP leader was explicitly non-committal, the prospect of McConnell rallying Republican senators against Trump opens up the possibility that the president could eventually be barred from holding office ever again. If Trump is convicted in a Senate impeachment trial, senators could tack on a measure that bars him for life. 

McConnell’s note emerged just as the House was gearing up to vote on a single article of impeachment against Trump for inciting insurrection, after Trump egged on a mob that proceeded to ransack the Capitol Building on January 6. Shortly before the violence erupted, Trump held a rally near the Capitol and urged the crowd to “fight like hell.” 

This time, if McConnell decides to go after Trump, all bets are off. Several GOP sources told CNN that if McConnell supports conviction, then Trump would almost certainly get the 67 votes necessary to convict him. 

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Other Republicans have already declared their outraged at Trump and sound like they’re ready to vote to convict. 

Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said on Sunday that Trump should resign and possibly face “criminal liability” for his actions. Alaska’s Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the Alaska Daily News flatly: “I want him out.”

McConnell has reportedly said in private that he believes Trump committed an impeachable offense and that he’s pleased Democrats brought the procedure because it may allow Republicans to purge Trump from their party. 

McConnell has also, however, opted not to invoke emergency powers that would allow him to call the Senate back into session to start the trial this week. The most likely scenario now is that the Senate trial won’t be able to start until Trump steps down from the presidency on January 20. 

The last time Trump got impeached, in December 2019, only one GOP Senator voted to convict him: former Republican presidential nominee Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.