Democrat senator crosses party line to praise Trump’s legal team: ‘They did a good job’

House Democrats hoping to rally at least a handful of Senate Republicans to their side in support of President Donald Trump’s impeachment have so far come up short — and now, it looks like matters are about to get even worse for them.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, admitted on Saturday that Trump’s impeachment defense team has forced him to “think about things” in a new light with the start of their opening arguments in the Senate’s trial.

“A good job. I thought they did a good job,” Manchin conceded Saturday, according to the Washington Examiner. “They gave us a lot to think about, and I think it gives us more reasons why the one thing that stuck in my mind is they said that there wasn’t a witness that they’ve had so far that had direct contact with the president.”

But the West Virginia lawmaker hasn’t been completely convinced of Trump’s innocence just yet. “I think that it reaffirms why I would love to hear from [Mick] Mulvaney and [John] Bolton,” Manchin added, according to The Washington Post.

A Democrat defector?

Manchin was referring in his remarks to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former National Security Adviser John Bolton, two individuals who Democrats have long hoped would get the chance to testify during Trump’s trial in the Senate. Thus far, however, Republicans have resisted calling witnesses, according to the Examiner, preferring instead to vote later in the proceedings.

Some Republican senators have indicated that they would consider voting in favor of hearing additional testimony, but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has made it clear that he wants a quick trial with as little to do as possible.

It’s unclear who will win in the witness battle, but looking ahead to Trump’s conviction, Democrats’ chances still don’t look all that great, particularly in light of the fact that Republicans hold the majority in the Senate. Even if all Senate Democrats voted in favor of Trump’s ouster, it wouldn’t be enough to force him out — and now, Manchin, who represents a state that went for Trump in 2016, has suggested that he may be on the fence.

“I just think that we have to let this play out and see what [Trump’s legal team] is doing,” Manchin told reporters on Saturday, according to The Hill. “They’re doing a good job of basically talking about and making me think about things that have been said.”

The senator went on to say that he would like to see more evidence — the sort of evidence that the House failed to muster up during their inquiry. “I think it really reaffirms that we need to see the redacted documents,” Manchin asserted Saturday. “We need to see people that have firsthand information.”

An impartial adjudicator

At the end of the day, which way Manchin will vote is anybody’s guess. But it’s important to note that he has voted with Republicans on controversial issues before, including the confirmations of now-Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Still, for now, all Manchin has done is promise impartiality.

“I said all along I would be very impartial, and you have to be,” he told reporters Saturday, according to the Examiner. “We have to have an open mind about how innocence and guilt based on the facts you see and the rebuttal that you hear.”

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