‘You’re asking me to make the most important decision that I’ve ever made … and I wanna hear everything I can…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia made clear that the vote—most likely on Friday— whether to call additional witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump probably will not be a bipartisan one.
“I want witnesses,” Manchin said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” shortly before holding a press conference of his own.
“I want people to tell me what you know,” he continued. “You’re asking me to make the most important decision that I’ve ever made in the political arena or as an individual, and I wanna hear everything I can.”
Manchin, who was the only Democrat to vote in favor of confirming Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, is widely viewed as one of the party’s most conservative senators.
Hunter Biden’s ‘consulting’ role as a board member of the corrupt Burisma energy company—for which he received millions of dollars between 2014 and his April 2019 resignation—has been a central component in the impeachment.
While most Democrats have dismissed the idea of a brokered compromise on witnesses and have pushed back against having the Bidens testify, Manchin signaled that he would likely support such an arrangement.
“I don’t have a problem there, because this is why we are where we are,” he said of a Biden subpoena.
“Now, I think that he [Hunter Biden] could clear himself—what I know and what I’ve heard—but being afraid to put anybody that might have pertinent information is wrong, no matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican,” he added.
Manchin said he had not discussed his position with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and was unlikely to put his party allegiance over his loyalty and duty to his constituents.
“I’m Joe from West Virginia, and Chuck’s my friend, but I get along with everybody,” he said.
“All the Republicans—I don’t have anybody I don’t like, and I try to work with all of them,” Manchin continued. “But, by golly, I’ve gotta go home and look West Virginia in the eye and say, ‘Hey, this is why I did it.’ If I don’t have an answer and I can’t explain it, I can’t vote for it.”
Senate GOP leaders have pressed for a quick dismissal without any additional witnesses, maintaining that the politically motivated House case does not warrant any further consideration.
Trump’s defense argued that the charges—lacking a specifically enumerated crime—run contrary to the framers’ intentions and the past precedent regarding presidential impeachments. Both prior efforts—the trials of presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton—ended in acquittals despite clearer evidence of the commission of crimes.
Republicans hold a 53-47 lead in the Senate (with two left-wing independents caucusing with Democrats). However, three GOP senators—Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—all have expressed support for hearing additional witnesses.
The only other Democrat whom Republicans might lean on to consider a quick dismissal without additional witnesses would be Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala. Jones already faces an uphill battle to win re-election in November, with his predecessor, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his 2017 special election opponent, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, both signaling interest in another run.
Some media outlets, such as Politico, have included freshman Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., in the trio of Democrat undecideds who may ultimately vote to acquit Trump on one or both charges. While Sinema ran a campaign to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake that did not seem to court conservatives necessarily, her narrow victory over Martha McSally underscored her political vulnerability.
Sinema’s voting history has since entrenched her firmly in the moderate camp, but she faces no imminent danger of losing her seat.
McSally, who subsequently was appointed to replace the late Sen. John McCain, does face a particularly close election in November. She is one of a handful of still-undeclared, battleground-state Republicans facing re-election this year who may potentially break ranks on the question of witnesses.
Like other centrists caught in the political crossfire, Manchin decried the hypocrisy of both sides from those whose 180-degree reversals since the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial were prominently showcased in the opening arguments.
“People are confused,” he said. “… Did they think the brilliance of our framers over 230 years ago left that much wiggle room in that you could change your position every 10 or 20 years?”
Likewise, Manchin said, efforts to cherry-pick only the witnesses who favored a specific partisan outcome seemed to run counter to the oath of impartiality that the senators took.
“I don’t know how anybody goes home and says, ‘I just thought I heard enough,’” Manchin said.
“Wait a minute—the most important thing we’ve ever done as a public official … nothing rises to the level of ‘Should we remove a president?’” he added. “And nobody wants to be in that position.”