Talking Points

Mitch lied. The impeachment died.

Mitch lied to us.

Following the Jan. 6 insurrection, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it clear he thought then-President Donald Trump was responsible for the violence. The Trump-loving rioters "did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth — because he was angry he'd lost an election," he said in an instantly famous speech at the end of Trump's second impeachment trial. 

But, darn it, McConnell was just too principled to actually vote for Trump's conviction. It wasn't the constitutional thing to do, you see — Trump had already left office, which made the impeachment effort a dead letter.

That, we now know definitively, was a load of horsepucky. A new book by a pair New York Times journalists reports McConnell cheered on the impeachment effort, only privately. "The Democrats are going to take care of the son of a b---h for us," he reportedly told advisers on Jan. 11, adding: "If this isn't impeachable, I don't know what is." 

But McConnell reversed course when he realized that few GOP senators were on board with the effort. He slow-walked the impeachment process so that the trial would finish well after President Biden's inauguration and Trump's Jan. 20 departure from the White House — only to use that delay as his excuse for voting against conviction. "He didn't ascend to power by siding with the minority, [McConnell] explained to a friend," the Times reported

The new revelations make clear McConnell actually thought impeaching Trump was the right thing to do, that actually he expected the Democrats to succeed, that he actually expected a substantial number of Republicans to join that effort — and that he undermined the overall effort when he realized it would mean the loss of his own power. 

That famous impeachment speech? It was an attempt to have it both ways, to condemn the insurrection without having to take responsibility for imposing consequences. Worst of all, it was cynical in the extreme, invoking the Constitution to abet its destruction. 

That wasn't just craven. It was consequential.

An impeachment conviction would've cleared the way for Congress to bar Trump from ever running for president again. Instead, the former president is his party's front-runner for the 2024 nomination. Given Biden's low ratings, Trump might even win the presidency outright. If that happens — if the "SOB" actually takes power again — McConnell will bear a substantial share of the blame.