A potential swing-vote Democratic senator told reporters that he believes President Donald Trump’s legal team performed well on Saturday in presenting their arguments for why the president shouldn’t be impeached during the Senate trial.
“A good job. I thought they did a good job. They gave us a lot to think about, and I think it gives us more reasons why the one thing that stuck in my mind is they said that there wasn’t a witness that they’ve had so far that had direct contact with the president,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said Saturday, reported the Washington Examiner. “So, I think that it reaffirms why I would love to hear from [Mick] Mulvaney and [John] Bolton.”
Manchin was referring to former national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, whom Democrats have sought to call in the Senate impeachment trial. Bolton has signaled that he would be willing to testify in the trial.
Manchin’s reaction to Trump’s legal defense appears to break with his Democratic caucus. It isn’t the first time he’s split with them on a major issue, as he joined Republicans to confirm both Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
When he was asked if Trump’s legal team could possibly convince him to vote to acquit, Manchin told reporters: “I just think that we have to let this play out and see what [Trump’s legal team] is doing. They’re doing a good job of basically talking about and making me think about things that have been said.”
The arguments have again confirmed “that we need to see the redacted documents. We need to see people that have firsthand information,” Manchin said. “I said all along I would be very impartial, and you have to be. We have to have an open mind about … innocence and guilt based on the facts you see and the rebuttal that you hear,” he added.
Another potential swing-vote Democrat in a Trump-leaning state, Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), said he believes the House Democratic managers have made a “compelling case” and said he would try to remain impartial. “I’m hoping to hear the facts and the rebuttal from the president. So I think that’s only appropriate,” Jones told The Hill.
Jones, like Manchin, is viewed by Republicans as one of two Democrats who might acquit the president during the trial.
Regardless of whether or not any Democrats join Republicans, Trump’s acquittal is almost certain. The Senate requires a 67-vote supermajority to remove a president, which has never been done before in U.S. history. It means around 20 Republicans would have to join Democrats to convict Trump.
House Democrats are alleging Trump abused his power by withholding millions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine while simultaneously requesting President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden’s dealings in Ukraine while he was in office.
Biden’s son, Hunter, had sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma Holdings, that has long been accused of corruption and was the subject of investigations that were shut down, while the lead investigator abruptly resigned. Trump had referenced in the call Joe Biden saying in 2018 that while in office, he threatened to withhold $1 billion in load guarantees from Ukraine unless the investigator was fired. The investigator, Victor Shokin, has also said, under oath, that his resignation was due to pressure from Biden.
Both Bidens have denied any wrongdoing and have said there is no evidence, while Trump, Zelensky, and other Ukrainian officials have said there was no pressure campaign or quid pro quo.