The Senate was set to vote Wednesday on two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump. The first charges him with abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election on his behalf by withholding military aid and a White House meeting; the other charges him with obstructing Congress in a bid to hide his wrongdoing.
The votes — one for each article of impeachment — were expected to begin at 4 p.m. Eastern. In the morning, senators were to take to the Senate floor to explain their decisions to either convict or acquit Trump.
With Republicans standing in lock step to acquit Trump, all eyes on Wednesday afternoon will be on Senate Democrats in search of any defections. The president and other Republicans would love nothing more than to be able to trumpet a bipartisan acquittal.
A handful of moderate Democrats, including Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Doug Jones of Alabama — who is facing a steep reelection challenge this year — have left the door open to acquittal. Manchin floated the idea this week of censuring the president, a largely symbolic gesture, but it remained dead on arrival in the polarized chamber.
Dashing the hopes of Democrats who implored them to break party lines, moderate Senate Republicans held together and announced, one by one, that they would acquit Trump, contending that removal from office was an overly excessive punishment that would disenfranchise voters.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is facing a steep reelection challenge, called the president’s actions “wrong” and “improper.” Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who is not running for reelection, said last week that House Democrats had proved their case that Trump withheld foreign aid to Ukraine as leverage Ukraine for an investigation into his political rivals.
But both asserted that the act was not impeachable, arguing that removing Trump from office before the election in November would traumatize an already bitterly divided nation.
Now, the fight over the president’s political future will play out in the broader political arena.
“I’m sure there are going to be people unhappy with me in Maine,” Collins told CBS. “My job is not to weigh the political consequences, but to do impartial justice to live up to the oath that I took.”