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Senate poised to acquit President Trump

Sen. Mitt Romney is the last moderate Republican still to announce his decision in the Senate impeachment trial. Others say they will vote to acquit Trump.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., center, flanked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., left, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., leave the chamber during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 31, 2020.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Senate will close the third impeachment trial in American history Wednesday with an all-but-certain acquittal of President Donald Trump.

It would take 67 votes — two-thirds of the 100-member Senate — to convict Trump. That is unlikely with Republicans holding 53 seats in the chamber. Senators reconvene Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern to render a verdict.

But what remains unknown is who could break ranks from their respective parties in what would be an inconsequential vote of guilty or not guilty on two articles of impeachment passed by the House more than a month ago.

The drama has somewhat decreased as all but one — Utah Sen. Mitt Romney — of the moderate Republicans seen as possible votes to convict have announced their decisions to acquit the president. Romney is expected to give a floor speech Wednesday before the Senate reconvenes as a court.

And there are a few Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Doug Jones of Alabama and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — who hadn’t revealed their decisions as of late Tuesday.

Trump became the third president in American history to be impeached when the House passed two articles of impeachment in December. The first charges him with abuse of power for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to conduct investigations that would benefit him politically. The second accuses Trump of obstructing Congress during the House investigation into his dealings with Ukraine.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee is among the majority Republicans who will vote to acquit Trump. He is to give a floor speech Wednesday around noon Eastern time to elaborate on his position.

“I expect to talk to the merits and to the process and both to the absence of proof and the deficiency of the articles as written,” Lee said.

The second-term senator, who consulted with the White House defense team before the trial started, has never wavered from his position that Trump didn’t ask personal political favors from Ukraine. He described obstruction of Congress as “absurd” and “a made-up thing.”

During the trial, he questioned the motives of the whistleblower, whose complaint launched the impeachment inquiry, and concluded the foreign service workers who testified to House investigators represent a “deep state” of disgruntled career government employees who want to oust a president they disagree with.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, arrives for a markup session Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Yesterday, Lee criticized a security briefing on Iran by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other top officials, saying it was “probably the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue,” in nine years in the Senate.
J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press

But other Republicans who will vote to acquit the president aren’t as ardent as Lee that Trump did nothing wrong in his dealings with Ukraine or in resisting House requests for witnesses and documents.

Over the past several days, in public statements and floor speeches, some Republican senators indicated they didn’t condone Trump’s conduct — calling it wrong, shameful and crossing the line — but said it didn’t warrant removal from office, either.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, became the latest moderate Republican to declare she would vote to acquit the president on both articles of impeachment in a floor speech on Tuesday.

“It is my judgment that except when extraordinary circumstances require a different result, we should entrust to the people the most fundamental decision of a democracy, namely who should lead their country,” Collins said in her floor speech.

After, she told reporters that the number of senators criticizing the president’s conduct was a sufficient reprimand and that she would have been more open to a resolution censuring Trump rather than calling for his removal.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, walks to the Senate chamber for the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol Friday Jan 31, 2020, in Washington, as Senators continue the impeachment trial for President Donald Trump.
Steve Helber, Associated Press

Manchin, who said he was undecided in his floor speech Monday, floated the idea of censuring Trump, though it doesn’t seem to be gaining much traction. Jones, a former federal prosecutor and Democrat seeking reelection in strongly pro-Trump Alabama, told reporters he’s likely to announce his vote Wednesday morning.

More than a dozen Democrats took turns on the Senate floor announcing their votes to convict.

The day began with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasting the effort to impeach and remove Trump as the Democrats’ political revenge for losing the 2016 election.

“That is the original sin of this presidency: that he won and they lost,” he said.

“We’ve done our duty,” he said. “I urge every one of our colleagues to cast the vote that the facts in evidence, the Constitution, the common good clearly requires — vote to acquit the president of the charges.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., responded in a brief speech, accusing his GOP colleagues of sweeping Trump’s misconduct under the rug.

“The administration, its top people and Senate Republicans are all hiding the truth,” Schumer said. “The charges are extremely serious. To interfere in an election, to blackmail a foreign country, to interfere in our elections gets at the very core of what our democracy is about.”

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