McConnell stands by Trump immunity stance, criticizes Tucker Carlson's 'destructive' rhetoric

In a pair of interviews that aired Sunday on Face the Nation (CBS) and Meet the Press (NBC), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his views on federal abortion bans, a potential Trump endorsement, the ongoing pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

The longest-serving Senate leader in history, McConnell, 82, recently announced that he’s stepping down from that position in November. He plans to serve out the rest of his Senate term, which ends in January 2027.

Here are some key quotes from his back-to-back interviews.

As the Supreme Court weighs whether a president has total immunity from criminal charges, McConnell reflected on then-President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in 2021, for which he voted to acquit Trump from having incited the Jan. 6 events. At the time, McConnell said presidents don’t have total immunity and that Trump was “morally responsible” for the insurrection on Jan. 6.

“I stand by everything I said then,” he told Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan, and acknowledged that he plans to support whoever the 2024 Republican presidential nominee is.

“The voters of my party across the country have made a decision,” McConnell said. “As the Republican leader of the Senate, obviously, I’m going to support the nominee of our party.”

When pressed about his past comments suggesting that a national abortion ban is “possible,” the Kentucky senator clarified on Meet the Press that the issue is a state matter, insisting that the Senate is unlikely to get the 60 votes it needs to pass any type of federal ban — for or against.

“We’re seeing it play out all across the country, and I think in the end it will reflect the views of these individual states,” McConnell told moderator Kristen Welker. He didn’t say whether he supports a 15-week federal ban, with exceptions, that his Republican colleague Lindsey Graham supports.

As protests against Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza roil college campuses across the country, McConnell responded to remarks made by Speaker Mike Johnson and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott suggesting that protesters ought to be punished with jail time. He said he believes the solution lies with university leaders rather than law enforcement.

“The First Amendment is important,” he said on Face the Nation. “These university presidents need to get control of the situation, allow free speech and push back against antisemitism. I thought that was largely gone in this country, but we’ve seen a number of young people who are actually antisemitic. Why don’t they all sit down and have a civil conversation rather than trying to dominate the talk?”

On Face the Nation, McConnell insisted that his focus isn’t on the presidential race as much as it is on flipping the Senate and advocating for “moving away from the isolationist movement that began with Tucker Carlson,” the former Fox News host accused of promoting various conspiracy theories.

“He had a huge audience among rank-and-file Republicans,” McConnell told Brennan of Carlson, echoing comments he made earlier this month. The former Fox News host’s rhetoric “was very destructive, very impactful on regular Republican voters and created a big problem,” he said.

“I certainly disagreed with him,” he added. “And then he certainly ended up where he should have been all along: interviewing Vladimir Putin.”

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