WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The long days of lawyers arguing for and against the impeachment of U.S. President Donald Trump are over. Now it is up to U.S. senators from both major parties to present their rationale for acquitting or convicting him.
The impeachment trial of the 45th president began on Jan. 16 and is winding to a close on Wednesday, when the deeply divided Senate is scheduled to vote on whether he should be removed from office.
With nearly all of Trump’s fellow Republicans staunchly defending him, Democrats are expected to fail in their drive to convict Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in his dealings with Ukraine.
Much more than Trump’s guilt or innocence will be on the minds of the senators who speak on Tuesday in the third-ever impeachment trial of a president: Trump is seeking a second four-year term in a Nov. 3 election.
Besides aiming to unseat Trump, Democrats hope to keep their majority in the House of Representatives and seek to seize the Senate from Republican control.
Making their final arguments on Monday, Trump’s lawyers struck a defiant tone and accused House Democrats of staging “false investigations” in an impeachment inquiry that resulted in charges that Trump abused his power and obstructed Congress.
Democrats castigated Trump in making their plea for an unlikely conviction, which would require 67 votes in the 100-member chamber.
“You can’t trust this president to do the right thing. Not for one minute. Not for an election. Not for the sake of our country,” said Representative Adam Schiff, who led the Democrats’ impeachment battle.
Any hints of fallout in the impeachment trial will be most closely watched in districts and states that can swing either to Republicans or Democrats and will play a decisive role in November’s House and Senate races.
A backlash could hurt some Democratic incumbents seeking re-election, while Republicans who have defended Trump could find themselves in a tough spot with their moderate constituents.
The difficulty was on display on Monday, when Democratic Senator Joe Manchin took to the Senate floor and tried to thread the needle with a middle-ground position: raising the idea of a “censure” of Trump’s behavior, instead of ouster from office.
Manchin’s home state of West Virginia has been solidly behind Trump since his 2016 campaign for president, and Manchin said he was still undecided on how he will vote on the two impeachment articles on Wednesday.
Reporting by Susan Cornwell; Writing by Richard Cowan; Editing by Howard Goller