After a lengthy silence about how he would vote in former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell ultimately voted Saturday to acquit.

Trump was accused of inciting the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. The Senate fell short of the 67 votes, a two-thirds majority, required to impeach him, voting 57-43 in favor of impeachment.

Both McConnell and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul voted to find Trump “not guilty.”

In a speech on the Senate floor after the vote, McConnell condemned Trump’s behavior as “unconscionable,” but he said “we have no power to convict and disqualify a former office holder who is now a private citizen.”

“I believe the Senate was right not to grab power the Constitution doesn’t give us,” he said.

The Kentucky Republican had told other GOP senators of his plans in a note Saturday morning, Politico reported.

McConnell wrote: “While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” the website reported.

McConnell had previously remained mum about his vote, writing to fellow members of Congress last month that he had not decided.

On Saturday, McConnell said rioters at the Capitol Jan. 6 acted as they did “because they’d been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on earth because he was angry because he’d lost the election.”

“The leader of the free world cannot spend weeks thundering that shadowy forces are stealing our country and then feign surprise when people believe him and do reckless things,” McConnell said. “This was an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories orchestrated by an outgoing president who seemed determined to either overturn the voters’ decision or else torch our institutions on the way out.”

But, he said, “the entire (impeachment) process revolves around removal” from office. He said former office-holders can be tried in court.

“President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office,” he said.

Colmon Elridge, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, issued a statement after the proceedings in which he referred to McConnell and Paul as “cowards” who will be remembered as “traitors to our union no different than Benedict Arnold or Jefferson Davis.”

“Today, Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul voted to side with domestic terrorists who attacked our U.S. Capitol – an attack that led to the death of several Capitol Police officers. Never in the history of our nation have those responsible for upholding the rule of law and the faith of our union waves (sic) the flag of surrender to terrorists, until today,” Elridge wrote.

“Right now in jails and prisons across America, innocent Black and brown Americans are imprisoned for the crime of being people of color and poor. If we ever questioned whether or not justice is blind, it is clear justice has been perverted by those in power to see clearly and apply different standards. That justice cannot be done even when our nation is under attack, should shake every coward who attacked our Capitol and every coward who in casting their votes for acquittal sided with terrorists, simply because those terrorists were Republicans and Trump sympathizers.”


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