The decision all but ensures that Trump will avoid becoming the first president in American history to be convicted in an impeachment trial. McConnell plans to explain his decision after the final vote, an aide told CNN.
The typically tight-lipped Senate Republican leader rarely broke from Trump in his four years as president. But he led the Senate’s certification of the presidential election that the rioters pledged to overturn, and strongly condemned the violence at the Capitol he has served in as a senator for 36 years.
In a 50-50 Senate, the House impeachment managers — all of whom are Democrats — need to persuade 17 Republican senators to join every member of their party to convict Trump. But only five or six have indicated they would be open to doing so.
Some of the Trump supporters were dressed in tactical gear, armed with zip-ties. Others held Trump 2020 flags, broke windows with poles and set up a gallows for Pence, who was constitutionally obligated to oversee the certification of the election, and the peaceful transfer of power to the Democrats.
But even after witnessing the deadly violence firsthand, and being reminded of it again at the scene of the alleged crime, many Republican senators are concerned about the unprecedented nature of trying a former president in an impeachment trial.
These Republican senators also argue that Trump’s words could be protected under the First Amendment, and note that he also said in his speech that day “to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” They say the rioters should be held accountable for their actions but that the former President should not be convicted on the charge of inciting them.
This story has been updated with additional developments Saturday.
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.
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