Only one US senator from the Deep South voted to convict and remove Donald Trump from office on Wednesday: Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat whom election analysts peg as the most vulnerable Democrat in Congress’ upper chamber for this year’s elections. He cast the politically hazardous vote even as the Republican-controlled chamber voted against 52-48 to acquit Trump for abusing power.
“In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch said, ‘The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience,'” Jones said in a statement afterward. “All along, my conscience has been my guide. But voting my conscience does not require courage—it simply requires doing what I know is right.”
‘A Man of His Convictions’
Prior to the vote, Jones gave a speech on the House floor in which he called for unity.
“This has been a divisive time for our country, but as this chapter of history draws to a close, one thing is clear: our country deserves better than this. We must find a way to come together and to focus on what we have in common as Americans,” he said.
Last year, Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine, a US ally, in order to pressure them into announcing a sham investigation into Joe Biden, who Trump fears could be a formidable foe this November. There is no evidence Biden committed any wrongdoing, but Trump hoped a Ukrainian announcement would hurt the former vice president’s standing in the polls. Minutes after the US Senate voted to acquit Trump on abuse of power charges Wednesday, the Alabama Republican Party sent out a statement attacking Senator Jones.
“He continues to take his marching orders from [US Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer and his liberal California campaign donors. By voting to convict, Senator Jones once again is demonstrating his contempt for the majority of Alabamians who are opposed to impeachment,” Lathan said. “This comes as no surprise when you consider his past voting record including his votes against Justice Kavanaugh and many of President Trump’s other nominees, his refusal to back border wall funding and his continued support of abortion on demand.”
Among the Republicans running to replace Jones is Roy Moore, whom Jones defeated in 2017 after numerous women accused the right-wing judge of sexually preying upon them when they were minors. In 2018, Jones voted against Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the US Supreme Court after Christine Blasey-Ford testified under oath before the US Senate, claiming that the Trump pick once sexually assaulted her at a party.
In a second statement on Wednesday, Lathan praised Alabama’s other US Senator, Republican Richard Shelby.
“His vote to acquit shows he is not only a man of his convictions but also respects the will of the majority of his constituents,” Lathan said.
But Roy Moore took to Twitter after the vote to criticize both Jones and Shelby.
“As expected Doug Jones plans to vote to remove President Trump from office which is not only an embarrassment to our state but also demonstrates his lack of understanding of the Constitution he was sworn to uphold,” wrote Moore, seemingly ignoring the fact that the Constitution proscribes impeachment as a remedy for presidential wrongdoing. “Senator Richard Shelby should apologize to the people of Alabama for his intentional interference in the 2017 election to elect Jones to the Senate.”
In 2017, Shelby told reporters that he did not vote for Moore when he faced off against Jones. Instead, Alabama’s senior US senator wrote in another Republican’s name.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for president in 2012, was the only member of the US Senate who broke with his party.
Romney: ‘An Appalling Abuse of the Public Trust’
Romney’s vote to convict Trump and remove him from office for abuses of power marked the first time in history any US senator has voted to convict and remove a president of their own party.
“The grave question the Constitution tasks senators to answer is whether the President committed an act so extreme and egregious that it rises to the level of a high crime and misdemeanor,” Romney said in a speech on the Senate floor shortly before the vote. “The President asked a foreign government to investigate his political rival. The President withheld vital military funds from that government to press it to do so. The President delayed funds for an American ally at war with Russian invaders. The President’s purpose was personal and political. Accordingly, the President is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust.”
Aside from Romney, Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Main, and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee voted to acquit Trump despite conceding that the US House made its case against their party’s standard-bearer. Despite acknowledging his guilt, the three offered varying explanations for their votes to acquit, with Collins saying she thought Trump had “learned a lesson.” The three offered varying explanations for voting to acquit Trump despite acknowledging his guilt, with Collins saying she thought Trump had “learned a lesson.” Hours later, the Washington Post reported that Trump said Collins was wrong and his conduct had been “perfect.”
During his floor speech, Romney, a devout Mormon, said he knew the decision would draw anger from many in his own party, but he had no other choice.
“I am aware that there are people in my party and in my state who will strenuously disapprove of my decision, and in some quarters, I will be vehemently denounced. I am sure to hear abuse from the President and his supporters. Does anyone seriously believe I would consent to these consequences other than from an inescapable conviction that my oath before God demanded it of me?”
Senators Signaled Plans to Violate Oaths Weeks Before Trial
Other members of the US Senate appeared to take that oath less seriously. Mere days after swearing under oath to “do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God” as a juror in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in January, US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Mississippi Republican, told supporters she did not take the trial seriously and is actively “fighting it.”
“What (US House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi did in impeaching our president is no laughing matter, but even Democrats know it’s a joke,” Hyde-Smith tweeted to her followers on January 19. “Please RT this video and help me show why I am fighting the impeachment sham in the US Senate.”
In December, US Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina and a friend of Hyde-Smith’s, told CNN he, too, had already decided to vote to acquit Trump, even though the trial was still a month away at the time.
“I have made up my mind. I’m not trying to be a fair juror here,” said Graham.
Sure enough, Graham not only voted to acquit Trump, but more than a week earlier claimed Trump’s Ukraine scheme amounted to “good government” and that Trump was simply trying to “root out corruption” in the East European country.
“When they say that the only reason that President Trump wanted anybody to look at the Bidens, I would say, is that good government demands they look at the Bidens,” a straight-faced Graham told Fox News host Sean Hannity on January 24.
The Republican US Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, also admitted weeks before the trial that he intended to help Trump. McConnell, who was in charge of setting the parameters for the trial, worked with the Trump White House to ensure it would put the president in as little political peril as possible.
“I’m not an impartial juror,” McConnell said in December. “This is a political process. There is not anything judicial about it. Impeachment is a political decision . . . I’m not impartial about this at all.”
McConnell successfully blocked efforts to call witnesses and subpoena new documents at the trial. That marked the first time in history that a presidential impeachment trial included no witness testimony. All Deep South senators, except Jones, joined McConnell in voting to block witness testimony.
After the impeachment trial, the Democratic Party of Georgia criticized Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the state’s two Republican senators, for voting to acquit Trump.
“Today, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler put scoring political points ahead of their sworn constitutional duties,” said Alex Floyd, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Rather than upholding their oath to do ‘impartial justice,’ Perdue and Loeffler spent the entire trial doing Mitch McConnell’s bidding instead of allowing for a fair hearing of evidence and first-hand witness testimony.”
Multiple Democratic candidates are currently vying for the nomination to challenge Loeffler and Perdue in November.
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