Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the top Republican in the Senate, will vote to acquit former President Donald Trump of the incitement to insurrection charge in his impeachment trial, a GOP colleague told reporters.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) confirmed the report in remarks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Saturday, putting to rest weeks of speculation about what McConnell would do.
Asked by reporters if he had noted that “McConnell just said he’s going to vote to acquit,” Cornyn replied, “I did see that, yeah.”
“He said it’s a vote of conscience,” Cornyn said. “So I think each senator needs to make that decision on their own. Obviously, he’s reached that conclusion.”
Last month, the House voted 232–197, including 10 Republicans, to impeach Trump on the sole charge of inciting an insurrection. The charges stem from the Jan. 6 breach of the U.S. Capitol, which Democrat impeachment managers, and others, have labeled an “insurrection” and claim Trump incited.
Trump’s lawyers have contended that the incitement of insurrection charge against Trump is a gross exaggeration.
“An insurrection—unlike a riot—is an organized movement acting for the express purpose to overthrow and take possession of a government’s powers,” they wrote in filings, arguing that Trump’s speech “was not an act encouraging an organized movement to overthrow the United States government.”
Mere minutes after the Democratic-led House impeached Trump on Jan. 13, McConnell wrote to his GOP colleagues that he had “not made a final decision” about how he would vote at the Senate trial. There has been close scrutiny over how McConnell would vote, given his position as the Senate’s most influential Republican and the longest-serving GOP leader ever.
Meanwhile, a number of GOP senators have insisted that there is practically no way the former president will be convicted.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Thursday that it is “crystal clear” that Trump will be found not guilty.
“I think the end result of this impeachment trial is crystal clear to everybody … Donald Trump will be acquitted,” said Cruz told The Hill. “And every person in the senate chamber understands there are not the votes to convict him.”
Others to go on the record as saying that an acquittal is near-certain include Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
“The ‘Not Guilty’ vote is growing after today,” Graham wrote in a tweet Thursday. “I think most Republicans found the presentation by the House Managers offensive and absurd.”
At least 17 Republicans in the 100-seat chamber would have to join all 50 Democrats to convict Trump.
The Senate voted Saturday morning to allow the House impeachment managers and counsels for Trump to call witnesses. It’s unclear how many witnesses the Senate will subpoena since the process is subject to further debates and votes.
After that, the respective teams get two hours each for closing statements, which will be followed by a final vote.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told CNN that, “I think you get at best six Republicans—probably five and maybe six,” who will cast votes in favor of a conviction.
The six Republicans could be the ones who broke with their GOP colleagues Tuesday in voting that the impeachment trial was constitutional: Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.).
Lawmakers from both parties have said they would like to wrap the trial up quickly so they could move on to other business, such as confirmation votes on senior Biden administration officials and COVID-19 relief.