Some Democrats might vote to acquit Trump

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) talks to reporters on his way to President Trump's impeachment trial.
Politically vulnerable Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) wouldn’t say Friday how he planned to vote.
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

Although all 47 Democratic and independent senators voted Friday to prolong President Trump’s impeachment trial by summoning witnesses, it remains unclear whether party leaders can count on all of their members to vote to convict Trump.

That decision is expected Wednesday. No Democrats have publicly said they will side with Trump and vote for acquittal. But vote counters on both sides have focused on a handful of moderate or vulnerable senators who represent states where Trump is popular or voters are leery of removing a president from office for the first time in U.S. history.

As of late Friday, those Democrats have not said how they will vote. That has led some Trump allies to think a bipartisan acquittal is possible.


There’s precedent for that. Senators broke party ranks in the impeachment trials of Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999.

Trump was impeached in the House in December on two articles: the first, abuse of power for withholding nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine while pushing the country to investigate his political rivals; the second, obstruction of Congress, for prohibiting administration officials from complying with subpoenas to testify or produce documents.

Friday evening a majority of the Senate voted not to call witnesses. Afterward, Senate leaders agreed to hear closing arguments Monday, with an eye toward a final vote on Wednesday.

Many Democrats said they would wait to hear the evidence before making a decision, but some have tipped their hand in public statements and most are expected to vote that Trump is guilty on both counts.

Just a few Democrats are believed to be truly undecided.

“Your decision on acquittal is a matter of conscience,” Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.) said.

“I’d be very disappointed if some of my friends voted to acquit the president, but that’s not a party position; that’s got to ultimately be everybody’s individual decision,” he said.


Trump ally Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday afternoon he’s hoping some Democratic senators follow the example of the two House Democrats who opposed impeaching the president in December. One of them, Rep. Jefferson Van Drew of New Jersey, switched political parties soon after.

“The real question is ... how many Democrats are going to vote to acquit the president and do what happened in the House?” Jordan said.

Some of the Democrats who represent states where Trump is popular have been the quietest.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said before the trial that she would not comment on the proceedings or the facts until after it concludes. She has steadfastly declined to comment and avoided questions from reporters. Her staff did not respond to an email Friday.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who on occasion has broken ranks to vote with Republicans, told reporters Friday night, “I swear to God I won’t know until I walk in,” adding that he’s going to reflect on the Constitution and his duty over the next few days.

One of the more politically vulnerable Senate Democrats, Doug Jones of Alabama, said this week that he was waiting to hear all of the evidence.

The former lawyer is running for reelection this year and is a key target of Republicans seeking to reclaim a stronghold that Trump won with more than 60% of the vote in 2016.


“I’m going to wait and see how it ends up, and I will judge the evidence I have in front of me,” Jones said. He wouldn’t comment Friday.

Earlier this week Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is known for trying to find compromise across the aisle, suggested that, while she had serious concerns about Trump’s character and thinks his actions were wrong, she is still weighing her ultimate vote on whether to acquit him.

“Impeachment isn’t about one offense. It’s really about the character and ability and physical and mental fitness of the individual to serve the people, not themselves,” she said, noting her office had received roughly 125,000 letters in support of the impeachment last week, and about 30,000 against it.

“There is substantial weight to this,” she said, “and the question is: Is it enough to cast this vote?”

Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats but occasionally votes with Republicans, also told reporters Friday he’s undecided on a final vote.

Just two Republicans joined Democrats in voting to call witnesses, but it’s not expected that either will end up voting to convict Trump.


One of them, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), laughed Friday when reporters asked whether he’d vote to acquit, then walked away without answering.