President Donald Trump and White House officials are looking for at least one Senate Democrat to vote against removing the president from office at the end of his impeachment trial, and they see Joe Manchin III, W.Va., as the most likely candidate.
Trump took particular pride that three House Democrats voted against his impeachment, White House officials said, and he would like to be able to get at least one Senate Democrat to vote for his acquittal so he can claim the decision was bipartisan.
Manchin has sided with Trump on tough votes before, such as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But voting to acquit the president would be an even more politically charged decision, one that could help him maintain his reputation as a moderate back home but would probably make him a pariah within his own party.
The West Virginian struck a conciliatory note toward the president Saturday, becoming the only Democrat to publicly praise Trump’s defense team even as he called for more witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
“I thought they did a good job in presenting the defense for the president,” he said. “The most important thing I took away from today was, they made very clear that there’s not one witness that we’ve heard from . . . that had direct contact with the president. That reaffirms why I have said we should have witnesses.”
Manchin, 72, isn’t the only moderate Democrat who White House aides said they believe could vote to acquit the president. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Doug Jones of Alabama are also considered possibilities because they represent states Trump won in 2016.
But Manchin is the only one they believe could be swayed not only by politics back home but also by his relationship with the president, according to aides who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss issues involving the impeachment trial.
Trump has interacted with Manchin – a brawny, backslapping former governor – more than any Democrat in the Senate. Manchin has come over for movie screenings, including “Darkest Hour,” the 2017 historical drama about Winston Churchill, and the president has given him tours of the family residence and his private study.
“I’m not going to have the kind of relationship with him that Democrats have,” Manchin said in an interview last month.
(c) 2020, The Washington Post · Josh Dawsey