Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) attempted to explain in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Monday why he voted to acquit ex-President Donald Trump in his Senate impeachment trial for inciting the U.S. Capitol riot.
But critics weren’t buying McConnell’s reasoning and instead accused the Kentucky Republican of trying to have it both ways because he delayed holding the trial until Trump left office and then argued that Trump could not be convicted because he was not in office anymore.
The Senate on Saturday failed to reach the supermajority of 67 senators needed to convict Trump and ban him from holding office again. McConnell rebuked Trump soon after voting to acquit him, sparking backlash from Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other Trump apologists.
In his column, McConnell doubled down on his criticism of Trump, acknowledging the ex-president had pushed “unhinged falsehoods” about the 2020 election being stolen from him and said there was “no question” Trump bore “moral responsibility” for the insurrection.
But the Senate minority leader then argued impeachment is “a specific tool with a narrow purpose: restraining government officers” and suggested “the instant Donald Trump ceased being the president, he exited the Senate’s jurisdiction.”
“The Senate’s duty last week was clear. It wasn’t to guarantee a specific punishment at any cost,” he concluded. “Our job was to defend the Constitution and respect its limits. That is what our acquittal delivered.”
MSNBC’s Brian Williams on Monday said McConnell’s column, which tried to justify the failure to convict Trump on procedural technicality, was “apparently written by gaslight.”
“On Saturday, you saw Mitch McConnell convict Trump in his speech moments after acquitting him. The guy who held off the trial until Trump left the presidency said they just couldn’t convict Trump because he had left the presidency,” Williams commented.
Watch Williams’ remarks here:
Other critics were equally angered by McConnell’s column: