Per Politico, in a letter sent to his Republican colleagues, McConnell said that he cannot convict Trump because he is no longer in office.
"While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction," he stated.
"The Constitution makes it perfectly clear that Presidential criminal misconduct while in office can be prosecuted after the President has left office, which in my view alleviates the otherwise troubling 'January exception' argument raised by the House."McConnell's announcement confirms that he agrees with Trump's legal defense team and other GOP lawmakers, who claim that it would be unconstitutional to convict a former commander-in-chief.
In fact, forty three Senate Republicans have gone on the record deeming the proceeding unconstitutional, which suggests they will move to acquit Trump and makes conviction highly unlikely, since Democrats need at least 17 GOP votes.
However, McConnell has reportedly not spoken to Trump for weeks and believes that he should be criminally prosecuted for the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.
According to Politico, the Kentucky senator "has held his decision close throughout the trial, until Saturday, and said in his email that he continues to view the verdict as a 'vote of conscience' but shared his choice because his colleagues have been directly asking how he'll vote."
The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump last month, charging him with "incitement of insurrection" for allegedly encouraging a violent group of his supporters to storm the Capitol building and overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Democrat Joe Biden won the race in an electoral blowout, but Trump and his allies maintain there was widespread fraud.Polling suggests that most Americans believe Trump should be held accountable for the January 6 riots. In an ABC News/Ipsos poll released last week, 56 percent of respondents -- including 15 percent of Republicans -- said that the former commander-in-chief should be convicted and barred from ever being elected again.
Still, some conservatives have claimed that convicting Trump would set a dangerous precedent. In a recent interview, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said that convicting the former president would not only violate the Constitution, but also criminalize political speech.
Paul argued that, by Democrats' logic, liberal politicians such as Majority Leader Chuck Schumer should be impeached as well, because they encouraged political violence against conservatives.