Republicans are becoming increasingly confident they'll be able to hand President Trump 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.
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 McConnell (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 Barrasso (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.
Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Doug Jones (Ala.) are viewed as the two Democratic senators 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 Gorsuch in 2017 and the only Democrat to support Brett Kavanaugh’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 Moore, the former Alabama chief justice who faced multiple accusations of sexual misconduct with 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 actions.
Two Democrats voted against the first article, while three voted against the second. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) voted “present” for each.
Asked if he thought an acquittal in the Senate would be bipartisan, Sen. Lindsey Graham (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.
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 Democratc 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 Democrats lined up behind Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) in a letter he sent to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) 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 Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others, to testify at the trial.
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 Durbin (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 Pelosi (D-Calif.) by saying: “We don’t do that. It’s a vote of conscience.”