GOP predicts bipartisan acquittal at Trump impeachment trial

Republicans are becoming increasingly confident they'll be able to hand President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump fires intelligence community inspector general who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint Trump organization has laid off over 1000 employees due to pandemic: report Trump invokes Defense Production Act to prevent export of surgical masks, gloves MORE a bipartisan acquittal in his Senate impeachment trial.

With 67 votes needed to convict the president and remove him from office, and the outcome of a Senate trial all but guaranteed, GOP senators are broadening their sights as they plot their strategy.

Senate Republicans think they’ll be able to pick up one or two Democrats on the final votes for each impeachment article. That would let them tout Trump’s acquittal as bipartisan — an angle they’ve already seized on when talking about the two House votes, in which a handful of Democrats crossed the aisle to join Republicans in opposing impeachment.

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Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) declined to say who he thinks will flip, arguing he didn’t want to put pressure on them.

“I think we might have a couple,” Perdue said. “I don’t want to speculate on who — obviously that puts too much pressure on them — but I really think we have people on both sides that are trying to get to a reasonable, nonpartisan answer.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans 13 things to know for today about coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.), during a recent Fox News interview, also predicted that Democrats would break ranks. He doubted any GOP senators would vote to convict Trump.

“It wouldn't surprise me if we got one or two Democrats. It looks to me over in the House, the Republicans seem to be solid and the Democrats seem to be divided," McConnell said. 

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOvernight Energy: Trump rolls back Obama-era fuel efficiency standards | Controversial Keystone XL construction to proceed | Pressure mounts to close national parks amid pandemic Critics blast Trump mileage rollback, citing environment and health concerns Lobbying world MORE (Wyo.), the No. 3 GOP senator, stopped short of predicting that Republicans would pick up any Democratic votes but noted “there are a couple of Democrats who are thinking about that.”

“And you know who they are,” he added.

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Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinPoliticians mourn the death of Bill Withers Pressure mounts for national parks closure amid coronavirus White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package MORE (W.Va.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) are viewed as the two Democrats most likely to potentially vote for acquitting Trump.

Manchin, who was once considered for a Cabinet position in the Trump administration, comes from a deeply red state where Trump won in 2016 by roughly 42 percentage points. According to polling data website FiveThirtyEight, Manchin votes with Trump 53.1 percent of the time — the most of any Democratic senator currently in office.

He won reelection last year and has had high-profile breaks with his party, including being one of three Democrats to support Supreme Court Justice Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchHillicon Valley: Twitter says Chinese official's virus disinformation doesn't violate rules | Hackers target WHO | Senators urge agencies to stop coronavirus robocalls Supreme Court raises bar for racial discrimination claims in contracts Progressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives MORE in 2017 and the only Democrat to support Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump nominates former Kavanaugh clerk for influential appeals court Coronavirus isn't the only reason Congress should spend less time in DC Progressives urge Democrats to hear from federal judge deeply critical of Roberts, conservatives MORE’s successful nomination last year.

Manchin has described himself as “very much torn” on impeachment and stressed he won’t make a decision on whether to vote for conviction until he has “all of the facts.”

Jones, meanwhile, is viewed as the most vulnerable Democrat up for reelection next year as he tries to win a full term in Alabama, where Trump won in 2016 by nearly 28 points. Jones won his Senate seat in a December 2017 special election, where he ran against GOP nominee Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for allegedly defying ban on large gatherings Trump endorses Tuberville over Sessions in Alabama Senate runoff Sessions to face Tuberville in Alabama GOP Senate runoff MORE, the former Alabama chief justice who faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls from when he was in his 30s.

Jones, however, has taken a different tack than Manchin since joining the Senate, opposing Kavanaugh and voting with Trump 34.5 percent of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. His first Senate speech in 2018 was on the need for tighter gun control — a headline-grabbing move given his state’s deep-red leanings.

Jones has urged his colleagues to be “impartial” and thrown his support behind getting documents and witnesses from those with firsthand knowledge of Trump’s actions toward Ukraine that were at the center of the House impeachment inquiry.

“As a juror sworn to do impartial justice, I believe I should reserve judgment and let the process unfold without political interference — and I strongly encourage my colleagues to do the same,” Jones said after the House passed the two articles of impeachment.

The House voted last week to make Trump only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached, passing two articles against him: one charging him with abuse of power in his dealings with Ukraine and the second with obstructing Congress during its investigation of those dealings.

Two Democrats voted against the first article, while three voted against the second. Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi Gabbard20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order The Hill's Morning Report — ,000,000,000,000: GOP unveils historic US rescue effort Gillibrand endorses Biden for president MORE (D-Hawaii) voted “present” for each.

Asked if he thought an acquittal in the Senate would be bipartisan, Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham asks colleagues to support call for China to close wet markets Justice IG pours fuel on looming fight over FISA court Trump says he's considering restricting travel to coronavirus 'hot spots' MORE (R-S.C.), a close ally of Trump’s, fired back: “Probably.”

“I think he will get every Republican’s vote for acquittal. And I think he will pick up some Democratic votes for acquittal,” he added in a separate Fox News interview. 

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In addition to Jones and Manchin, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) is considered another potential Democratic defector. The freshman senator has emerged as a member of the Senate’s dwindling coalition of moderates since joining in January. She has voted with Trump 52.9 percent of the time, second among sitting Democratic senators, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Sinema is known around the Capitol for being tight-lipped and does not do hallway interviews with reporters. But Sinema told KNXV, a TV station in Arizona, that she will go into the trial unbiased.

“As our juror it will be my constitutional duty to approach it with no bias,” she said. “And to listen to the arguments presented by both sides.”

The potential for Democrats to break on the trial votes comes as the caucus has largely been unified so far in the impeachment fight.

All 47 Senate Democrats lined up behind Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats press Trump, GOP for funding for mail-in ballots Schumer doubles down in call for Trump to name coronavirus supply czar Trump lashes out at Schumer over call for supply czar MORE (D-N.Y.) in a letter he sent to McConnell outlining their initial offer on a schedule for the trial, as well as their requests for four witnesses and documents linked to the delay in Ukraine aid.

Schumer wants to keep the caucus united throughout the procedural maneuvering, believing it helps keep the focus on the three or four Republicans needed to win votes they are likely to force on the Senate floor to call former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonChina sees chance to expand global influence amid pandemic Trump ignores science at our peril Bolton defends decision to shutter NSC pandemic office MORE and acting White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOne year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Meadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE, among others, to testify at the trial.

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It’s similar to the play Schumer made during the ObamaCare fight in 2017, when Democrats remained united and were able to stop Republicans from nixing the law. Democrats also stuck together that year when the GOP tax bill passed Congress on party-line votes.

But Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Democratic lawmakers demand government stop deporting unaccompanied children MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, told The Hill that leadership has not whipped the impeachment vote and would not be pushing senators to vote a certain way when it comes to acquitting or convicting Trump.

“I have not whipped the Democrats, and we’re not going to,” Durbin said when asked about GOP predictions that the votes will be bipartisan.

Pressed if they would whip the caucus closer to the conclusion of the trial, Durbin echoed Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump says he opposes mail-in voting for November On The Money: Economy sheds 701K jobs in March | Why unemployment checks could take weeks | Confusion surrounds 9B in small-business loans The bipartisan neutering of the Congressional Budget Office MORE (D-Calif.) by saying: “We don’t do that. It’s a vote of conscience.”