Moderate Democratic senator calls for Trump to be censured

Image: Joe Manchin
Sen. Joe Manchin, Joe, D-W.Va., walks to the Senate chamber after a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol on Jan 29, 2020. Copyright Steve Helber AP
By Dareh Gregorian with NBC News Politics
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The Senate has largely been split down party lines on whether to convict or acquit the president


Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, called for President Donald Trump to be censured instead of removed from office on Monday.

"Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines and as an equal branch of government formally denounce the President's actions and hold him accountable. His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate," said Manchin, who's had a goodrelationship with Trump in the past.

Manchin, speaking on the Senate floor, said he hadn't decided how he'd vote on the two articles of impeachment against the president, but criticized Trump's July 25th phone call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy where he suggested Zelenskiy investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

"It was not a perfect call," Manchin said. "No one, no one, regardless of political party, should think that the president did and what he did was right. It was just simply wrong."

But, he added, Democrats have "no path" to the 67 votes needed to convict the president, and "removing this president at this time would not only further divide our deeply divided nation but also further poison our already-toxic political atmosphere."

Censure, Manchin said, "would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms."

He introduced a resolution that reads in part, "The Senate does hereby censure Donald John Trump, President of the United States, and does condemn his wrongful conduct in the strongest terms; the Senate recognizes the historic gravity of this bipartisan resolution condemn his wrongful conduct in the strongest terms."

But the next speaker, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, made clear she did not believe the president did anything wrong and chided the House of Representatives for what she called its "intentional mishandling" of its investigation.

She said it was unfair for the House to think the Senate would "indulge this unseemly behavior."

Another Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, also announced on the Senate floor he'd vote to acquit the president, and said it would "be the most important of my career."

Inhofe, who voted to remove Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1999, said the two cases were very different. Clinton admitted to lying under oath and apologized for it, while Trump has denied any wrongdoing, he noted. He also complained the witnesses who testified before the House were "all hearsay" and hadn't had direct conversations with the president about his decision to withhold aid against Ukraine.

Inhofe was one of 51 Republicans who voted against calling additional witnesses.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., also said she'd vote to acquit. "How did this case even make it to the Senate?" she said. "Georgians aren't losing sleep over a call the president made."

A number of Democratic senators said they would vote to convict the president on the existing record, but vented their anger that there wasn't more testimony.

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said proceedings in the Senate were "an affront to the basic idea of a trial."

"It was a cover up," Schatz said. "They're afraid of this house of cards falling all the way down."

Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Ben Cardin of Maryland also said they'd vote to convict.

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