Full Text of Mitch McConnell's Email Explaining Why He Would Vote to Acquit Trump

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump, he indicated to colleagues in an email Saturday before senators resumed their trial Saturday over whether Trump was responsible for the violent mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.

Here's what he wrote:

"Colleagues, as I have said for some time, today's vote is a vote of conscience and I know we will all treat it as such. I have been asked directly by a number of you how I intend to vote, so thought it right to make that known prior to the final vote. While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction. The Constitution makes perfectly clear that Presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office, which in my view alleviates the otherwise troubling 'January exception' argument raised by the House.

Given these conclusions, I will vote to acquit.
Mitch"

The letter came before the impeachment trial was derailed with a call to allow witness testimony. Senators were expected to vote Saturday afternoon, but it's unclear when the votes will now be cast.

McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who won re-election last year and was a key ally of Trump while he was in office, cited a common argument among GOP senators—that someone cannot be convicted on an impeachment charge after they've left office.

Democrats, who have sought to bar Trump from ever seeking public office again, have argued that an acquittal would allow presidents free range to break the law as their terms near an end—the "January exception" that McConnell referenced in his letter. A vote to convict would require support from two-thirds of the Senate chamber.

Democrats' unexpected call for witnesses came after news emerged of phone calls that Trump had with lawmakers after the Capitol had been breached.

The Democrat-led House voted to impeach Trump a week after hundreds of Trump supporters swarmed the U.S. Capitol, attempting to disrupt the certification of President Joe Biden's election.

The Senate started its trial Tuesday with a vote to move forward with the unprecedented impeachment trial of a president no longer in office.

During much of the brief trial, which included never-before-seen security footage of members narrowly evading the mob, McConnell sat stoically, barely reacting to testimony from either side, including when House managers noted that McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, resigned from her position as Transportation Secretary in the Trump administration, citing the Capitol insurrection.

"Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the president stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed," Chao wrote in a statement posted on Twitter and read during the trial. "As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside."

Before the angry mob breached the Capitol, McConnell, who was Senate majority leader at the time, had urged the Senate to certify Biden's election and admit Trump's loss, even if Republicans had hoped Trump would win.

"I've served 36 years in the Senate. This'll be the most important vote I've ever cast," he said, in explaining his vote for certification, which wouldn't happen until hours later as lawmakers huddled in safe spaces until the Capitol was cleared.

Weeks later, McConnell directly condemned the riot and acknowledged Trump's role.

"The mob was fed lies," he said on the Senate floor. "They were provoked by the president and other powerful people."

McConnell had kept quiet on how he planned to vote before Saturday, but he and other Republicans already voiced their view that it's unconstitutional to impeach someone who's no longer in office. Trump's term ended January 20.

The Senate voted 56-44 to continue the impeachment trial at its start on Tuesday. Six Republicans joined all Democrats in favor, and only Republicans voted against.

During the trial, several GOP senators who are Trump loyalists, including Texas' Ted Cruz, Utah's Mike Lee and South Carolina's Lindsey Graham, were seen conferring with Trump's legal team.

mitch mcconnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate Chamber on the third day of former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on February 11, 2021 in Washington, DC. House impeachment managers will make the case that Trump was singularly responsible for the January 6th attack at the U.S. Capitol and he should be convicted and barred from ever holding public office again. Drew Angerer/Getty