So much for Sen. Ron Johnson's hope that Mitch McConnell would "zip his lips" on former President Trump. The Senate minority leader has penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed accusing Trump of inciting insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6 while also defending his vote to acquit the former president of that same crime. "There is no question former President Trump bears moral responsibility. His supporters stormed the Capitol because of the unhinged falsehoods he shouted into the world’s largest megaphone," McConnell writes, per the Hill. "His behavior during and after the chaos was also unconscionable, from attacking Vice President Mike Pence during the riot to praising the criminals after it ended." Yet McConnell argues the acquittal delivered on a promise to "defend the Constitution and respect its limits" since Trump is now a former official.
Though impeachment managers cited historical cases of senators impeached after leaving office, McConnell concluded impeachment was limited to "current officers," per CNN. In other words, "the instant Donald Trump ceased being the president, he exited the Senate's jurisdiction." "I respect senators who reached the opposite answer," he writes. "What deserve no respect are claims that constitutional concerns are trivialities that courageous senators would have ignored." He adds it wasn't possible to hold an impeachment trial while Trump was still in office as "no remotely fair or regular Senate process could have started and finished in less than one week." But "criminal law and civil litigation ensure there is no so-called January exemption," in which an outgoing president might be free from punishment. (Trump is facing various legal challenges.)