United States senators largely cleaved neatly to party lines on Tuesday as they gave their justifications for voting to acquit or convict the president on the articles of impeachment that were passed by the House of Representatives and argued in a 12-day trial in the Senate.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the chamber’s top Republican, exhorted his colleagues to acquit the president, warning that the fate of the republic depended on it. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called President Donald Trump a threat to democracy, and urged senators to remove him from office. More: Trump impeachment trial: Who are the key players? What evidence has come out since Trump was impeached? What happened in the Senate impeachment trial of Bill Clinton?
On Wednesday, the Senate will give its final vote in what is expected to be the last day of the impeachment trial. As a supermajority of 67 votes is required to remove Trump from office, his acquittal is considered all but certain.
“We must vote to reject the House abuse of power. Vote to protect our institutions. Vote to reject new precedents that would reduce the framers’ design to rubble. Vote to keep factional fever from boiling over and scorching our republic,” McConnell told the chamber.
For his part, Schumer said that if foreign election interference, like the investigations Trump allegedly solicited, are permitted, it will make Americans believe that they are not the ones electing the nation’s leaders.
“That is the beginning of the end of democracy,” said Schumer. “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.”
The House impeached Trump on December 18 on two charges : abuse of power for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and obstruction of Congress for blocking testimony and documents sought in the investigation. The subsequent Senate trial, which began on January 16, did little to change the charged partisan dynamics of the case.
Senators, who under official rules are prohibited from speaking on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial, were given the opportunity to say how they planned to vote after the trial adjourned on Monday.
Trump has drawn almost uniform support among Republican senators, who have a 53-seat majority in the chamber. However, several Republicans, including Senators Lamar Alexander, Marco Rubio, and
Rob Portman, have called the president’s dealings with Ukraine inappropriate, while saying those dealings are not enough to remove him from office.
In a speech Monday night, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, once considered a possible swing vote as Democrats pushed to call more witnesses in the trial, called the president’s actions “shameful and wrong”, while also deriding the highly partisan process.
However, she said: “I cannot vote to convict.”
In his address, Republican Senator Rand Paul stated the purported name of the anonymous whistle-blower whose complaint launched the House inquiry. Paul had last week put the name in a written question to be asked during the trial, but US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who is presiding over the trial, declined to read it.
Democrats have said identifying the whistle-blower could expose them to retaliation and deter others from reporting wrongdoing within the government.
Meanwhile, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, one of the only Democrats seen as a likely vote to acquit Trump, floated on Monday the idea of censuring Trump for his actions. However, the proposal has not gained much traction.