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McConnell defends acquittal in WSJ op-ed but blasts Trump's 'unhinged falsehoods'

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcCarthy and Biden haven't spoken since election Democrats roll out legislation to expand Supreme Court Wall Street spent .9B on campaigns, lobbying in 2020 election: study MORE (R-Ky.) in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Monday defended the Senate's decision to acquit former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration still seizing land near border despite plans to stop building wall: report Illinois House passes bill that would mandate Asian-American history lessons in schools Overnight Defense: Administration says 'low to moderate confidence' Russia behind Afghanistan troop bounties | 'Low to medium risk' of Russia invading Ukraine in next few weeks | Intelligence leaders face sharp questions during House worldwide threats he MORE but clarified that it "vindicated the Constitution, not Trump."

In his op-ed, McConnell echoed sentiments he shared after the Senate acquittal on Saturday, when he said Trump is "morally responsible" for the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6 and that he was "outraged" by Trump's actions.

"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 wrote. "His behavior during and after the chaos was also unconscionable, from attacking Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence undergoes surgery to receive pacemaker Pelosi says she would have put up a fight against Capitol mob: 'I'm a street fighter' Trump alumni launch America First Policy Institute MORE during the riot to praising the criminals after it ended."

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But McConnell went on in the piece to argue that convicting Trump was not protected by the Constitution because he is a former official. McConnell added, however, that he respects the decision of the seven Republicans who voted to convict and their interpretation of the Constitution. 

"I respect senators who reached the opposite answer. What deserve no respect are claims that constitutional concerns are trivialities that courageous senators would have ignored," he wrote. 

The minority leader also responded to critics who say he could have scheduled the impeachment trial before the inauguration while Trump was still president, saying it would have been too rushed.

"The Senate’s duty last week was clear. It wasn’t to guarantee a specific punishment at any cost. Our job was to defend the Constitution and respect its limits," he concluded. "That is what our acquittal delivered."

The op-ed comes as McConnell faces criticism from liberals over his decision to acquit Trump despite also condemning his actions surrounding the Capitol riot. 

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McConnell suggested on Saturday that Trump could face criminal prosecution for his actions outside the Senate.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office, as an ordinary citizen, unless the statute of limitations has run. ... didn't get away with anything yet," McConnell said after the vote.