Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell will vote to acquit Donald Trump in the former president’s impeachment trial.
HuffPost US reported on Saturday that McConnell sent an email to his colleagues informing them of his decision, as the historic trial – in which Trump faces a sole charge of incitement to insurrection – approached the voting stage.
The charge related to the events of January 6, when thousands of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in a deadly attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 general election.
As the US senate’s Republican leader, McConnell’s vote is highly influential, with his decision likely to influence that of others currently making their mind up about which way they will vote.
While most Democrats are expected to convict Trump, there needs to be a two-thirds majority in order to convict the former president.
With few Republicans willing to vote with the opposing party, any majority those in favour of a conviction was already likely to have been extremely slim.
If those who are still undecided follow McConnell’s lead, as is expected, the chances are that Trump’s will – for an unprecedented second time – escape the charge levelled against him.
In the email to his colleagues, the senate leader wrote: “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.”
This is an argument that has been put forward by Trump’s defence lawyers, who said that a former president could not be subject to an impeachment trial.
But even though Trump can no longer be removed from office, which would normally be the ultimate aim of an impeachment prosecution, he could be barred from holding public office in the future.
As many on social media have already pointed out, there is one major inconsistency in McConnell’s reasoning.
He actually refused to reconvene the senate before January 19, which would have allowed Trump’s trial to begin while he was still in office – but is now arguing that the senate has no jurisdiction to convict Trump as he is no longer in office.
The senate reconvened at 3pm GMT on Saturday, with senators voting to hear one final witness in the trial, delaying the vote on whether or not to acquit Trump.