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McConnell says he stands by past statement that ex-presidents are "not immune" from prosecution

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on "Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan" | full interview
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on "Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan" | full interview 26:11

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he stands by comments he made in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol that former presidents, including Donald Trump, are "not immune" from criminal prosecution. 

"Face the Nation" moderator and chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan asked McConnell if he still believes former presidents are not completely immune from prosecution, as he said in early 2021 a little over a month after rioters who supported former President Trump stormed the Capitol. 

The Supreme Court is now considering whether Trump is entitled to broad immunity from federal prosecution, and its ruling in the matter will be critical in determining the fate of his 2020 election trial. 

"Let's put it this way. I addressed that issue on February the 13th" of 2021, McConnell said. "... And January the 6th of 2021. I stand by everything I said then. Obviously, it'll be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether I was correct."

Three years ago, McConnell voted to acquit Trump in the impeachment trial over the Jan. 6 Capitol assault, reasoning in part that Trump "didn't get away with anything yet" and could still be held accountable by the courts. 

"We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation," McConnell said on Feb. 13, 2021. "And former presidents are not immune from being accountable by either one."

Margaret Brennan interviews Mitch McConnell on "Face the Nation" on April 25, 2025.  CBS News

At issue in the case before the Supreme Court, Trump v. United States, is whether the former president can face criminal charges for allegedly official acts while he was in the White House. The dispute, which arose from the federal prosecution by special counsel Jack Smith, is the second to come before the justices in their current term with significant consequences for Trump's political future.

The highest court could take months to render a decision. 

McConnell still endorsed Trump for president, telling Brennan that he has always maintained he would support the Republican nominee for president. 

McConnell has said he'll step down from his leadership role in the Senate in November, although his term won't expire until 2027. That means, as Brennan pointed out, Trump could be in the White House while McConnell serves out the remainder of his term. 

McConnell dismissed the idea of fact checking or influencing Trump when the presumptive GOP nominee parrots misinformation about Russia and Ukraine. 

"I'm not going to give any advice to our candidate in the — in the presidential election," McConnell said. "What I'm focusing on is turning the Senate into a majority Republican."

Last week, after much negotiating and hand-wringing, the Senate passed a $95 billion foreign aid bill for Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel. McConnell, who spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the bill's passage, said he apologizes for how long the package took to pass. To Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's credit, McConnell said, Democrats stuck together — it was Republicans who needed to be persuaded. 

According to the latest CBS News polling, 79% of self-identified Republicans say the source of information they trust most on Ukraine and Russia is Trump, more so than the Pentagon. Brennan asked McConnell how he would try to counter that messaging.

"I think the single most important thing I can do is make sure my successor is the majority leader, no matter how the presidential election comes out," McConnell said. "I haven't been entirely satisfied with this administration. I think the fact that our nominee basically decided not to continue whipping people against the package was a good sign, and I'm going to be advocating increasing the defense budget, no matter who gets elected, and preparing ourselves for the long term, which is China, Russia and Iran."

Melissa Quinn and Robert Legare contributed to this report

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