After not-guilty vote, top Republican Mitch McConnell says Trump ‘morally responsible’ for US Capitol riot

Mitch McConnell addresses the Senate following the impeachment acquittal of former US president Donald Trump. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Donald Trump "practically and morally responsible" for his supporters' deadly attack on the Capitol, only moments after voting to acquit the Republican former president on an impeachment charge of inciting the melee.

The top Senate Republican explained the unexpected turnabout at the end of a five-day impeachment trial, by declaring it unconstitutional to convict Trump of misconduct now that the former president has left office and become a private citizen.

The Senate earlier in the week found that the trial was constitutional in a 56-44 vote.

"There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day," said McConnell, who along with the rest of the Congress and former vice-president Mike Pence fled the mob that descended on the Capitol on Jan 6.

"The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president," McConnell said.

In comments that echoed the prosecution case presented by House managers, McConnell said Trump had orchestrated "an intensifying crescendo of conspiracy theories" and described the former president as "determined to either overturn the voters' decision or else torch our institutions on the way out."

The remarks, in a speech on the Senate floor, came soon after the 100-seat chamber acquitted Trump on a single charge of inciting insurrection in a 57-43 vote that failed to reach the 67-vote threshold necessary for conviction.

Seven of McConnell's Republicans voted to convict.

He suggested that Trump could yet face criminal prosecution for his acts.

"President Trump is still liable for everything he did while he was in office as an ordinary citizen," McConnell said.

"He didn't get away with anything. Yet."

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