Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) voted to acquit former President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial on Saturday, breaking his long silence and ultimately guaranteeing that the former president would not be convicted. Though McConnell demonstrated loyalty to Trump over the majority of his term, the senator openly blamed Trump for the recent Capitol riot and expressed hopes that he would be impeached, leading some to believe that he’d vote to convict and convince other Republican senators to do the same.

The senator shared his decision via a letter to the GOP, explaining that though he hopes Trump will still face criminal charges for inciting the violence of the recent riot, he finds an impeachment after the end of Trump’s term to be unconstitutional. McConnell’s full letter is as follows:

“Colleagues, 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. The Constitution makes 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.

Given these conclusions, I will vote to acquit.
Mitch”

Though McConnell’s letter almost certainly encouraged other senators to follow suit, his mention of the “January exception” raises an important counterargument – many Democrats have expressed concerns that an acquittal, which will potentially allow Trump to seek future roles in public office, will also allow future presidents to break the law near their terms’ end.

Though all Democratic senators in the 50-50 senate were prepared to convict Trump, leaving only 17 Republican senators needed for the impeachment to proceed, Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mitt Romney of Utah voted that the trial is constitutional.

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