Democratic Senator Proposes Censuring, Not Impeaching, Trump

February 3, 2020 Updated: February 3, 2020
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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) suggested on the Senate floor to censure—not impeach—President Donald Trump, saying that to convict and remove the president at this time is not a realistic option.

“Removing this president at this time would not only further divide our deeply divided nation, but would also poison our already-toxic political atmosphere,” Manchin argued.

At the same time, Manchin also condemned last week’s vote against calling additional witnesses in the impeachment trial and suggested that the upper chamber of Congress will be judged harshly by future generations.

The senator, elected in 2010, has been viewed by some as a potential Democratic vote to acquit Trump, as West Virginia overwhelmingly voted in favor of Trump in 2016. Manchin also voted to send Trump’s pick, Brett Kavanaugh, to the Supreme Court in 2018.

Explaining that he sees “no path” to reach the 67-vote supermajority needed to convict the president, Manching suggested another alternative to impeachment.

Manchin, however, said he believes there would be bipartisan support to “censure President Trump for his actions” and censuring him “would allow this body to unite across party lines.”

A censure, according to Manchin, “would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms,” he said, adding: “We must … put behind us the distrust and bitterness caused by this sorry episode.”

When senators convene to make a final vote on impeachment on Wednesday, Manchin said he has still not decided on how to vote.

“I am truly struggling with this decision,” he said, arguing that removing a president is “the most consequential decision I or and U.S. senator will ever face” after weighing arguments from both Trump’s legal team and House managers.

But he said that Trump violated his oath by asking a foreign government to intervene in what he said was tantamount to election interference.

What’s more, Trump also “defied lawful subpoenas from the House of Representatives,” Manchin remarked.

House Democrats voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, alleging Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine to investigate a political rival. Trump has denied the allegations and his legal counsel argued in the impeachment trial that even if Trump abused his power, as Democrats have alleged, it would not be an impeachable offense.

“The House violated every principle of due process and fundamental fairness in the way the [impeachment] hearings were conducted,” said Trump legal counsel Patrick Philbin on the floor of the Senate on Monday. “It’s significant because: Denying the president the ability to be present through counsel, to cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence fundamentally skewed the proceedings in the House.”

Trump will most likely be acquitted on Wednesday in the GOP-controlled Senate, as about 20 Republicans would have to join Democrats to convict him.

Freshman Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who won a hotly contested election, also has not signaled how he would vote. Aside from Manchin, there has been speculation that Jones and freshman Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will acquit Trump in a bipartisan vote.