Joe Manchin’s big decisions

West Virginia’s two United States Senators have several momentous decisions ahead of them in the impeachment trial of President Trump.

For Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, it’s a given she will join with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell against calling witnesses and then vote for acquittal on the charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

However, what Democratic Senator Joe Manchin will do is less clear.

We know Manchin wants to hear witnesses and he’s expected to vote that way today.

“As Senators, our votes on the Articles of Impeachment will be among the most consequential votes we ever make,” Manchin posted on Twitter.

“That’s why it’s so important that we see relevant documents and hear from witnesses from both sides who have relevant first-hand information.”

However, as of this writing, it’s beginning to look as though McConnell will be able to hold together enough Republicans to bypass witnesses.

If that happens, the Senate then votes on two articles, and this is where it gets tricky for Manchin.

Manchin’s nature is always to try to get a deal, to find a compromise that both sides can live with. But there’s no deal to be had. You are either for removal or against.

The Senator’s inclination toward a bargain could lead him to acquit on obstruction of Congress—the weakest case—and convict on abuse of power.

But a split-the-baby approach would only guarantee that Republicans and Democrats will forever hold him in contempt as a waffler.

I think it’s more likely Manchin will acquit on both counts. He said on Talkline this week that the standard for removal from office “should be the highest bar in the world.”

That’s far greater than the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” and, if taken literally, would be nearly impossible to meet.

Additionally, Manchin, who frequently decries the hyper-partisanship of Washington, fears the weaponizing of impeachment; if the bar for impeachment/removal is low, what’s to prevent a pattern of the majority party from using it to harass or even remove a President of the opposing party?

Don’t forget Manchin values personal working relationships, and he has one with Trump. As a business-friendly moderate Democrat, Manchin has more in common with the Republican President than with many of his fellow Democratic Senators.

Remember that Manchin was the only Democrat who voted for confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Then there’s the wildcard. Manchin could vote to convict on both counts and let any political fallout from his home state—a strong Trump state—be damned. Manchin has said he’s not running for re-election in 2024 so if he truly believes it’s the right thing to do, he does not have to worry about the political fallout back home.

I think the smart money is on Manchin voting for acquittal on both counts, but we’ll find out soon enough.


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