As Republicans senators explain how they will vote on whether to convict President Trump and remove him from office, a familiar refrain is emerging: The president’s behavior was wrong, but not impeachable.
Republican senators have labeled Trump’s request for Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to “look into” the Bidens and his delay of aid as “shameful,” “inappropriate” and “improper.”
But no GOP senator of the 53-member caucus has, so far, said they will vote to convict him on the two House-passed articles of impeachment: Abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) became the latest Republican to criticize Trump’s behavior, but say that she will ultimately vote to acquit him.
“It is clear from the July 25, 2019, phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky that the investigation into the Bidens’ activities requested by President Trump was improper and demonstrated very poor judgment,” Collins said from the Senate floor Tuesday.
Collins, who is up for reelection in November, said she was voting to acquit because the House failed to “met its burden of showing that the president’s conduct, however flawed, warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office.”
Collins is part of a small group of Republican senators who have criticized Trump ahead of Wednesday’s votes on the articles of impeachment. With 67 votes needed to convict, Trump is all but guaranteed to be acquitted.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) were both viewed as potential swing votes on whether to allow new witnesses and documents as part of the trial.
Murkowski announced Monday night that she would vote to acquit but called Trump’s behavior “shameful and wrong.”
“His personal interests do not take precedence over those of this great nation. … Degrading the office, by actions or even name calling, weakens it for future presidents, and weakens our country,” she said.
Alexander announced last week that he would vote to acquit Trump. He reiterated on Tuesday that “what I said is the way most people feel, which is the president did it, it was inappropriate for him to do it.”
One Republican senator is still viewed as a potential swing vote on convicting or acquitting Trump: Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), who has emerged as a critic of the president. Three Democratic senators are viewed as potential swing votes: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Doug Jones (Ala.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.).
It’s not just swing votes who have been openly critical of Trump.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who said last week that he would vote to acquit Trump, said delaying Ukraine aid or a White House meeting pending an investigation was “not appropriate.”
“I’ve consistently said that the president asking Ukraine for an investigation of Joe Biden was inappropriate and wrong,” Portman said Tuesday. “While I don’t condone this behavior, these actions do not rise to the level of removing President Trump from office.”
Alexander Bolton contributed.