WASHINGTON – Democratic and Republican senators spent the day before Wednesday’s impeachment verdict arguing whether the case has been made for convicting President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
Signs pointed to a likely acquittal, although Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, has proposed a Senate censure of the president for his dealings with Ukraine, although support for his move appeared slim at best.
As debate concluded Tuesday, 52 of 53 Republicans senators were known to favor acquittal of the president. It would take 67 votes of the Senate to convict him.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, ended the suspense over her deliberations by telling her colleagues in a floor speech Tuesday that while Trump’s actions were “improper” and “wrong,” she did not think the House Democrats met the high standard of proof of wrong-doing needed for conviction.
“This decision is not about whether you like or dislike this president or agree with or oppose his policies or approve or disapprove of his conduct,” Collins said. “It’s about whether the charges meet the very high constitutional standard of treason, bribery or other high crimes.”
That left one last Republican to announce his intentions on the impeachment articles: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. He is expected to speak to the Senate shortly before the vote on the impeachment articles.
As expected, Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland announced their plans to vote to convict Trump.
Van Hollen believes that the House managers have provided a “mountain” of evidence that helped to prove their case. He later tweeted, “Our Founders wrote the impeachment clause for exactly this moment – to prevent a corrupt president from enlisting a foreign power to help him cheat in an election… He is guilty and must be removed.”
Democrats have frequently made the argument that not removing Trump from office will send a signal to future presidents that it is okay to commit crimes against the nation because there would be no consequences. Democrats also charged that Republicans refusing witnesses and documents during the trial was not only unjust, but also a further effort by the GOP to hide the truth.
“While the decision on the president will come tomorrow, the verdict on the Senate is already in… guilty,” Van Hollen said, referring to Republicans blocking more evidence.
“President Trump’s conduct clearly crossed the line and constituted ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ when he put his own personal interests over the country’s interests, using the power of his office for his own personal benefit,” Cardin told the Senate on Monday. “President Trump violated his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, and failed in his duties to faithfully execute our nation’s laws.”
“In the United States of America, no one should be above the law,” Cardin said. “We must act to protect the Constitution and our democratic system of government.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, dismissed the Democrats’ impeachment effort as rooted in “the original sin of this presidency: that he won and they lost.”
Democrats have been eager to remove Trump for years, McConnell said.
‘This fever led to the most rushed, least fair, and least thorough presidential impeachment inquiry in American history,” he said.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said the impeachment addressed Trump’s attempts to contaminate democracy.
“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,” Schumer told the Senate. “If Americans believe that they don’t determine who is president, who is governor, who is senator, but some foreign potentate, out of reach of any law enforcement, can jaundice our elections, that’s the beginning of the end of democracy.”
“So, it’s a serious charge,” he said. “The Republicans refused to get the evidence because they were afraid of what it would show and that’s all that needs to be said.”
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, said “I am troubled that… House managers made senators feel as if we were the ones on trial… constantly stating that senators had no choice but to agree with their line of reasoning, and if we did not, then we would deal with the consequences. A veiled threat yet to be defined.”
The articles of impeachment charge Trump with abuse of office and obstruction of Congress in connection with his withholding of nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for that nation announcing investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Biden is a potential Trump rival this year.
The GOP claims that Trump’s actions are not serious enough to constitute treason or bribery, and especially not serious enough to remove him from office and going against the choice of the people in 2016.
Impeachment “should not be used as a blunt partisan instrument,” Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-West Virginia, said.
Senators will continue to speak on impeachment Wednesday morning. At 4 p.m., the impeachment trial will convene, probably for the last time, for immediate Senate votes on the two articles.