WASHINGTON (AP) — Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, the most endangered Democrat in this November’s elections, said Wednesday that he will vote to convict President Donald Trump when t he Senate impeachment trial reaches its climax.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Jones said the sum of the evidence produced “a picture of a president who has abused the great power of his office for personal gain, a picture of a president who has placed his personal interest well above the interest of the nation.”
Jones’ announcement was significant for Democrats, who are hoping their party will present a united front by unanimously voting to remove Trump from office in Wednesday’s final votes. That would deny Trump and his GOP allies a campaign season talking point that the Senate’s virtually certain acquittal of Trump was bipartisan.
Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona are among other Democrats being closely watched for their votes later Wednesday.
It would take 67 votes in the Republican-dominated Senate — two-thirds of senators — to remove Trump. No Republicans have indicated so far that they will vote to convict.
Jones faces reelection this fall from a heavily Republican state that Trump carried by 28 percentage points in 2016. In an upset, Jones narrowly won a special election for a vacant seat in 2017 against Republican nominee Roy Moore, who had been accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his thirties.
Some observers had suggested that the former federal prosecutor might decide to acquit Trump on at least one of the two counts.
Jones, who will need to win support from independents and some Republicans to win reelection this fall, lamented Washington’s worsening partisan divide.
“I fear that moral courage, country before party, is a rare commodity these days,” said Jones. He said that quality is “harder to put into action when political careers may be on the line.”
Jones had long indicated that he was troubled by Trump’s actions pressuring Ukraine to seek harmful information on political foe Joe Biden.
Jones said the impeachment article accusing Trump of obstructing Congress’ investigation of his behavior gave him the most trouble. He said Wednesday that while he wished House investigators had pushed harder for more documents and witnesses, “I believe the president deliberately and unconstitutionally obstructed Congress by refusing to cooperate with the investigation in any way.”
He said he believes “the evidence clearly proves” that Trump was guilty of the first count of abusing his power.
“His actions were more than simply inappropriate. They were an abuse of power,” Jones said.
Republicans hoping to reclaim the Senate seat in the once reliably red state seized on Jones’ decision, signalling it will become a rally cry for them against him until the November election. Trump won 62 percent of the general election vote in Alabama in 2016.
“By voting to remove President Trump from office, Democrat Doug Jones has given up on serving the men and women of Alabama,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Nathan Brand.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is competing in a crowded GOP primary to try to reclaim the Senate seat he held for 20 years, tweeted that Jones “personifies the left’s irrational enmity against (Trump).”
Democrats in Alabama vowed to stand behind Jones, the lone Democrat holding statewide office there.
“He ignored politics, pressure and partisanship and he cast a vote based on principle and proof,” Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Chris England said.
Shea Rives, a 49-year-old Birmingham Democrat and business owner, said Jones is “really a profile in courage” for casting the vote knowing it could make his re-election fight harder.
But he rejected the reflex to dismiss Jones as “toast” noting that’s what people said about his 2017 run.
“It’s an uphill battle, yes. It was an uphill battle last time.”