Mitch McConnell backed down from voting to convict Trump of inciting an insurrection because he 'didn't get to be leader by voting with five people in the conference'
- McConnell was reportedly ready to vote to convict Trump of inciting the January 6 Capitol riot.
- But the Senate GOP leader later backed away after realizing that most of his caucus wasn't on board.
Despite leaning towards convicting former President Donald Trump for incitement of an insurrection following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell later backed down after realizing that his Republican colleagues weren't on the same page.
That's according to a new excerpt published Thursday from "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future," a forthcoming book from New York Times reporters Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns.
"If this isn't impeachable, I don't know what is," he reportedly told two long-time advisors over a Chick-fil-A lunch in Kentucky on January 10. McConnell also believed that a conviction vote for Trump would be bipartisan, and that it may have even been enough to bar Trump from holding public office again.
That would've required a 67-vote majority in the Senate, meaning 17 Republicans would've had to join all 50 Democrats in voting to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection. Ultimately, just seven Republicans did so.
According to the book, both Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio told close confidants that McConnell was leaning towards voting to convict Trump, while even Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York thought he might go that way as well.
"I don't trust him, and I would not count on it," Schumer reportedly told liberal advocacy group leaders. "But you never know."
But McConnell quickly realized that the rest of his caucus did not feel the same way, and many Republicans began to argue that impeaching a former president is not appropriate.
"I didn't get to be leader by voting with five people in the conference," McConnell reportedly told a friend.
McConnell ultimately voted against convicting Trump on February 13, 2021, despite blaming him for the attack.
"There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day, McConnell said on the floor that day. "The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President.
In that same speech, McConnell repeated the very same argument put forward by his Republican colleagues — that a former president cannot and should not face conviction from the Senate.
"If President Trump were still in office, I would have carefully considered whether the House managers proved their specific charge," he said. "But in this case, that question is moot. Because former President Trump is constitutionally not eligible for conviction."
The following month, McConnell told Fox News that he would "absolutely" support Trump if he were to become the Republican nominee once again.
—Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 25, 2021
In an interview earlier this month with Jonathan Swan of Axios, McConnell argued that he's obliged to support whoeever GOP voters pick as their presidential nominee.
"I think I have an obligation to support the nominee of my party," said McConnell. "That will mean that whoever the nominee is has gone out and earned the nomination."
"I don't get to pick the Republican nominee for president. They're elected by the Republican voters all over the country," he said.
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