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Manchin will vote to convict Trump

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinVoters split on eliminating the filibuster: poll OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee MORE, a centrist Democrat whose home state of West Virginia gave President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE his biggest margin of victory in 2016, said he would vote Wednesday with other Senate Democrats to convict the president on two articles of impeachment.

"The charges brought against President Trump are serious and carry grave consequences for our nation," he said.

"The evidence presented by the House Managers, including video testimony of witnesses under oath in the House of Representatives, clearly supports the charges brought against the President in the articles of impeachment," he added.

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Manchin’s decision is a setback for Trump, who was hoping to be able to point to a bipartisan acquittal in the Senate trial.

"We expect a bipartisan vote in the United States Senate," Vice President Pence had said earlier Wednesday in an interview with Fox News. "The only bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives was against the articles of impeachment. And we expect a bipartisan vote in the United States Senate today."

Instead, it’s Senate Democrats who can claim a bipartisan vote to remove the president from office after Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyWhoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' GSA offers to brief Congress next week on presidential transition Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks MORE (R-Utah) shocked his colleagues Wednesday afternoon by announcing he would vote to convict Trump of abuse of power.

Another key centrist, Sen. Doug Jones (D) of Alabama, which gave Trump a 28-point margin of victory in 2016, announced earlier Wednesday he would vote to convict Trump on both articles.

Manchin narrowly won reelection to a third term by a 3.3 percentage point margin in 2018 but last year flirted with a possible run for governor, a job he held from 2005 to 2010.

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Manchin had signaled Monday that he might vote against impeaching Trump when he floated the alternative idea of a bipartisan resolution to censure the president.

He predicted on the Senate floor that a censure would “formally denounce the president’s actions and hold him accountable.”

“His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate, and censure would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms,” he said.

But the idea fell flat on Tuesday after centrists such as Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump tells GSA that Biden transition can begin Democrats gear up for last oversight showdown with Trump Trump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end MORE (R-Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWhoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Team Trump offering 'fire hose' of conspiracy Kool-Aid for supporters MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiWhoopi Goldberg blasts Republicans not speaking against Trump: 'This is an attempted coup' The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Murkowski calls on Trump to begin transition process, decries 'pressure campaign on state legislators' MORE (R-Alaska) dismissed the idea. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Voters want a strong economy and leadership, Democrats should listen On The Money: Biden to nominate Yellen for Treasury secretary | 'COVID cliff' looms | Democrats face pressure to back smaller stimulus MORE (R-Ky.) also made clear the idea was a non-starter.

Manchin appeared anguished over his decision as he wrestled with the pros and cons of voting to remove Trump from office.

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“I am truly struggling with this decision and will come to a conclusion reluctantly, as voting whether or not to remove a sitting president is the most consequential decision that I, or any U.S. senator, will ever face,” he said Monday.

Manchin was viewed as the Democrat most likely to support Trump’s acquittal after he was the only Democrat to support the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughCOVID-19: Justice Alito overstepped judicial boundaries Defusing the judicial confirmation process The magnificent moderation of Susan Collins MORE in October 2018 after a bitter partisan fight.

Some Republican strategists thought the vote ensured his reelection a month later.

A recent poll commissioned by Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group, showed that nearly half of West Virginia voters would view Manchin more negatively if he voted to remove Trump for office.

Patrick Hickey, a professor of political science at West Virginia University, said that voters “in general in West Virginia” think that Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit Protect our world: How the Biden administration can save lives and economies worldwide MORE and the Democratic impeachment effort were “all basically a political game.”

He said Manchin’s constituents wanted him to acquit Trump and speculated there was little reason for Manchin to take a risk since Democrats had no chance of getting the 67 votes needed to actually remove Trump from office.

“Why are you going to go against a majority of what your constituents want if it makes no practical difference?” he said.

Hickey said Manchin helped himself politically by voting for Kavanaugh in 2018.

“If you look back at 2018, that race was a lot closer than people expected. It was only a 3 or 4 percentage point margin that Manchin won by, and I would bet that the Kavanaugh vote is that margin of victory,” he added. 

Brett Samuels contributed.