19:52 GMT26 February 2021
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    The Democrats need to win the votes of 17 Republicans in order to convict Trump of inciting insurrection on 6 January in the Capitol. So far, only six GOP Senators have sided with them throughout the second impeachment.

    Senate Minority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell is planning to vote to acquit Trump at the end of the impeachment trial, Reuters and AP reported, separately citing anonymous sources. He reportedly informed his GOP colleagues of this decision.

    The Republican reportedly explained his stance in a letter to fellow Republicans stressing that, in his opinion, impeachment is a "tool primarily of removal" and hence the Senate "therefore lack[s] jurisdiction". At the same time, McConnell called the upcoming vote a "close call".

    McConnell's reported intention to support the former president comes amid his apparent shift of attitude towards Trump. During the 2019-2020 impeachment process, the then-Senate Majority leader supported the continuation of the impeachment trial although he did not vote against Trump. However, this year McConnell opposed the second trial as being illegal on the grounds that impeachment should be used only against the sitting president, which is no longer the case with Trump.

    U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) huddles on the Senate floor with Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and others after the Senate voted for witnesses during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2021
    © REUTERS / US Senate TV
    U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) huddles on the Senate floor with Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Senator James Lankford (R-OK), Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and others after the Senate voted for witnesses during the fifth day of the impeachment trial of former president Donald Trump on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 13, 2021

    The suggestion that the impeachment trial is unconstitutional is shared by Washington DC-based attorney, author and former diplomat, Michael Springmann, who called the process "a waste of time and effort". Springmann stressed that impeachment was specifically introduced to remove an official, in this case a president, from office, since it has no effect on a person, who has already left their post. The attorney added that lawmakers could now "impeach" any politician from the past, even the nation's first president, George Washington.

    "So, I think that this whole thing is a farce and it really makes the American political system look to be less than democratic, looks to be less than constitutional. It just seems to be an insane exercise in vindictiveness", Springmann says.

    Trial's Resolution Coming Ahead of Schedule?

    The report comes as the final vote, which will determine whether Trump is convicted or acquitted, draws near. If neither party decides to call or subpoena witnesses, the Democrats and Trump's defence will have two hours each to deliver their final statements on the case. After that, the Senators will commence voting, which could come as early as today.

    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduces legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman for his actions to defend the Senate and senators during the siege on the Capitol on January 6, during the fourth day of the impeachment trial of the former president on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2021.
    © REUTERS / US Senate TV
    U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduces legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman for his actions to defend the Senate and senators during the siege on the Capitol on January 6, during the fourth day of the impeachment trial of the former president on charges of inciting the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., February 12, 2021.

    The impeachment trial is thus ahead of schedule thanks to the fact that Trump's legal team took only three hours of the allocated 16 hours to present facts in his defence on 12 February. A video compilation of dozens of Democrats repeatedly promising to "fight" Republicans and Trump, became one of the highlights of the Friday proceedings as it was an obvious jab against the Democrats' attempts to prove the former president's guilt by simply linking his call "to fight like hell" during the 6 January rally at the Capitol riot.

    'Close Call' Vote Hangs on the Decision of 17 GOP Lawmakers

    The success of the second attempt to impeach Donald Trump heavily depends on whether the Democrats have managed to persuade at least 17 Republicans. Without them, the Democrats will not be able to gather 67 votes needed to convict the former president of inciting insurrection on 6 January.

    US President Donald Trump speaks to the leaders of Sudan and Israel as he announces that Sudan will normalize relations with Israel at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 23, 2020.
    © AFP 2021 / ALEX EDELMAN
    US President Donald Trump speaks to the leaders of Sudan and Israel as he announces that Sudan will normalize relations with Israel at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 23, 2020.

    Six Republicans, many of whom have criticised Trump, previously sided with the opposing party to support the legitimacy of the questionable impeachment trial targeting the former president instead of the current one – a contradiction reportedly pointed out by McConnell in his letter to fellow Republicans. However, it is unclear how many GOP lawmakers will join them, especially in the light of the minority leader reportedly siding with the ex-POTUS.

    The impeachment trial, the second one that Trump has faced, was launched by the Democrats in the light of their own claims that the former president incited insurrection. They claim that Trump provoked the 6 January Capitol riot with his refusal to cede the election, claims of voter fraud his legal team failed to prove in courts, and his address at the "Stop the Steal" rally on 6 January.

    The Democrat impeachment managers put great emphasis on Trump's use of the phrase "fight like hell" during the rally - when he spoke of plans to oppose the certification of Joe Biden's victory - as being one of the main factors that purportedly triggered the crowd. POTUS strongly denied being responsible for the rioters' actions in the Capitol and strongly condemned the violence that left five people dead.

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    impeachment, US, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump
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