Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has reportedly suggested to his Republican colleagues that voting whether to convict former President Donald Trump of “inciting an insurrection” is a matter of conscience and need not align with senators’ earlier votes to dispute the constitutionality of the trial.
Sources reportedly told Bloomberg that McConnell has not yet decided how he will vote, although he voted that the Senate hearing for the 45th president is unconstitutional on Tuesday.
During Trump’s first impeachment trial, the Kentucky Republican said he did not consider himself an impartial juror. However, in the time since, many Republicans have distanced themselves from the former president following months of rhetoric from Trump that the 2020 presidential election was rigged.
Trump’s comments, which Democrats claim led to the eventual storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on January 6, led the House to pass a single article of impeachment: “inciting an insurrection.”
However, even with the shifting dynamics in Congress and the Republican party, it is still unlikely that the Senate will vote to convict Trump. The chamber is evenly divided 50-50 and a two-thirds majority is required to convict.
At least 17 Republicans would need to vote along with every Democratic senator, though just six GOP senators on Tuesday voted to support the constitutionality of the trial.
In a leadership meeting Monday night, the Senate minority leader reportedly said the same things he has said publicly, a source told Bloomberg.
Last month McConnell blamed Trump and other “powerful people” for provoking the rioters who amassed at the Capitol.
“The last time the Senate convened, we had just reclaimed the Capitol from violent criminals, who tried to stop Congress from doing our duty,” he said in a speech on the Senate floor. “The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. And they tried to use fear and violence to stop a specific proceeding of the first branch of the federal government that they did not like.”
Reports last month indicated McConnell was pleased with Democrats’ impeachment effort, though he had not yet determined whether he will vote to convict.