Impeachment news roundup: Feb. 5

Trump to get his verdict, Romney only senator to break with party

Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, considered the most vulnerable Senate incumbent up for reelection this year, announced Wednesday he would vote to convict Trump on both of the articles of impeachment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, considered the most vulnerable Senate incumbent up for reelection this year, announced Wednesday he would vote to convict Trump on both of the articles of impeachment. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted February 5, 2020 at 10:50am

Updated 4 p.m.

A day after President Donald Trump presented what amounted to a summary of how he’ll campaign for reelection, the Senate began voting on whether he should continue his first term.

The 4 p.m. votes, all but assured to acquit Trump, closes a formal, bitter four-month fight over whether Trump abused his office and tried to obstruct Congress in its investigation.

Trump didn’t bring up the “I” word in his address to Congress on Tuesday, but there were plenty of signs that it it was the background against which he was speaking, from the House impeachment managers sitting together in a prime spot in the House chamber to Trump refusing to shake Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand after presenting her with a copy of the speech before he delivered it (and before she tore it up).

Senators today took one more opportunity to explain their planned votes and offered their opinion on the president and investigation into his conduct.

Here is the latest on impeachment:

3:55 p.m.| Manchin to convict: All eyes were on Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin III who waited until moments before a vote on articles of impeachment were to take place to announce that he would vote to impeach the president. 

“I must vote yes on the articles of impeachment. I take no pleasure in these votes, and am saddened this is the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren. I have always wanted this president, and every president to succeed, but I deeply love our country and must do what I think is best for the nation,” Manchin said in a statement.

2:10 p.m. | Romney voting to convict: In an emotional floor speech, Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said he would break with his party and vote to convict Trump on one of the two impeachment articles. The vote makes him the first person in U.S. history to vote to convict a president from his own party in a Senate impeachment trial. 

“I am profoundly religious. My faith is an essential part of who I am,” Romney said, as he talked about taking an oath before God to be an impartial juror.

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He paused for more than five seconds as he attempted to stifle tears.

“The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a ‘high crime and misdemeanor.’ Yes, he did.”

The president’s actions were an “appalling abuse of public trust. What he did was not perfect,” Romney said. “It was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values,” he said.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, asked Wednesday if Romney told his GOP colleagues how he would vote before the speech, Cornyn simply said, “No, we did not,” before walking into an elevator up to the chamber.

11:26 a.m. | Relevant info: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the investigating committees, in consultation with leadership, will evaluate whether former national security adviser John Bolton has relevant information to share about Trump “for their oversight responsibilities, not necessarily for the impeachment process.”

Asked if some members of the Democratic Caucus are ready to move on, Hoyer said in the context of impeachment “the answer is probably yes.”

10:55 a.m. | Precedent-setting: Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones said in a statement later delivered on the Senate floor that he will vote to convict Trump on both of the articles against him.

Jones, considered the most vulnerable senator up for reelection this year, said he had “reluctantly concluded that the evidence is sufficient to convict the President for both abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.”

“With the eyes of history upon us, I am acutely aware of the precedents this impeachment trial will set for future presidencies and Congresses,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, I do not believe those precedents are good ones. I am particularly concerned that we have now set a precedent that a fair trial in the Senate does not include witnesses and documentary evidence, even when those witnesses have first-hand information and the evidence would provide the Senate and the American people with a more complete picture of the truth.”

As to the charge of obstruction of Congress, Jones said “it was clear from the outset that the President had no intention whatsoever of any accommodation with Congress when he blocked both witnesses and documents from being produced. In addition, he engaged in a course of conduct to threaten potential witnesses and smear the reputations of the civil servants who did come forward and provide testimony. The President’s actions demonstrate a belief that he is above the law, that Congress has no power whatsoever in questioning or examining his actions, and that all who do so, do so at their peril. That belief, unprecedented in the history of this country, simply must not be permitted to stand.”

10:31 a.m. | Case closed: “House managers have proven our case against President Trump with clear and convincing evidence,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, one of the seven Democrats prosecuting the case, told reporters.

Jeffries cited GOP Sens. Lamar Alexander and Lisa Murkowski saying as much, although those moderate Republicans also said they didn’t think the charges rise to the level of removing Trump from office.

Jeffries declined to comment on a potential bipartisan acquittal vote, saying the House did its job and now it’s the Senate’s turn to do its job.

As to whether the House will subpoena Bolton, Jeffries said, “That’s a question for further discussion.”

10:15 a.m. | Programming note: White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters at the White House “I’m sure you will hear from the president” about the Senate’s vote. Conway said that it might come in a statement.

10:05 a.m. | A big deal: National security adviser Robert O’Brien said he was looking forward to Trump’s acquittal this afternoon.

O’Brien’s predecessor Bolton was a key figure in the impeachment inquiry although he was not forced to testify about Trump pressuring Ukraine to look into business dealings related to the Biden family.

“I didn’t realize when I came on board that Ukraine would be as big a foreign policy issue, or domestic policy issue is maybe a better way to put it,” O’Brien said. “But look, we’re there to support Ukraine.”

As to the allegations being voted on in the Senate, O’Brien again said he knew of no specific request for an investigation of the Bidens. He did, however, talk about the importance of making sure that U.S. foreign aid dollars are not going to corrupt governments.

“We’re very supportive of President [Volodymyr] Zelenskiy and his efforts to reform and end corruption in Ukraine,” O’Brien said. “I think you can count on continued friendship and strong support from the United States in Kyiv.”

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6:50 a.m. | Key vote: Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who at one point was considered a key vote on whether to convict Trump, criticized Trump’s behavior in the pressure campaign to force Ukraine to investigate political rivals before saying that she would vote to acquit.

Collins said that it was wrong for Trump “to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival,” but said the charges against the president did not meet the “very high standard” of treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors. 

In an interview with the “CBS Evening News” later Tuesday, Collins said she thought Trump learned his lesson from the impeachment, despite the White House’s assertion that he had done nothing wrong.

“He was impeached. And there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call,” she said. “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.”

6:40 a.m. | Still out there: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday it is “a possibility” the House might subpoena Bolton.

“I’m sure we’ll discuss it with the leadership whether it will bear any fruit, but we have a continuing responsibility of oversight,” Hoyer said. “Bolton has said he had information that we ought to have. I frankly think a lot of other information is going to come out along the way. And I don’t think ignoring it is clearly the option.”

Hoyer said he doesn’t think the Senate vote to acquit Trump will be bipartisan.

“I hope not,” he said, noting Republican senators who have decided Trump’s actions don’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense “are wrong.”