But he told Fox News’s Bill Hemmer that while he “labored over” the vote, calling it “most difficult decision” he’d had to make in nearly four decades of public life, the evidence against Trump was “overwhelming.”
“I said if I can come home and explain it, I can vote for it. I can explain this vote. It might not be popular in my state but we will see. History will tell. The bottom line is the evidence was very clear,” Manchin said, adding that he was hoping the chamber would vote to hear from new witnesses or admit new evidence that could have tilted the case more clearly in one way or the other.
“I was hoping, I truly was hoping that we would see evidence, that we would see new witnesses. Maybe he could get some doubt or clarity. What we saw was overwhelming,” he said.
Ultimately, Manchin concluded, the allegation that Trump asked Ukraine’s inexperienced president for investigations for his own political benefit proved to be “just an affront that I couldn’t get over.”
He said he was also put off by a controversial argument made by one of Trump’s lawyers about the expansive powers of the presidency.
Trump on Friday also kept up his battering of Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who was the lone Republican in either chamber of Congress to split from his party and vote to convict Trump.
Romney, in an emotional floor speech announcing his decision, said he leaned heavily on his faith to guide him. For the last 24 hours, Trump has mocked that explanation, claiming Friday that “every Republican Senator except Romney, many highly religious people, all very smart, voted against the Impeachment Hoax.”
But Romney, like Manchin on Friday, insisted that he’d struggled greatly with his decision to vote for Trump’s removal, and both senators also said that they’d voted to hear from new witnesses with the hope that maybe one of those witnesses could clear Trump.
Since Wednesday’s acquittal, Trump has set out on a vindictive victory lap.
He railed against Democrats, Romney and administration officials who testified against him in a freewheeling White House address on Thursday, and on Friday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the key impeachment witnesses, was pushed out of his post at the National Security Council.
In his tweets Friday, Trump praised Manchin’s fellow senator from West Virginia, Republican Shelley Moore Capito. Capito, Trump wrote, “was all in (a great person). I was told by many that Manchin was just a puppet for Schumer & Pelosi. That’s all he is!”
Capito had appeared on Fox News the day before, where she implied Manchin only voted against Trump because he had a “noose” around his neck controlled by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Manchin took offense to Capito’s assertion, pointing out that he breaks with his party quite frequently, including on several high-profile votes.
“My goodness,” Manchin exclaimed. “I’ve taken some tough votes that are very unpopular with the caucus and I’m sure that Schumer and everybody else might not have been happy with it but it’s a vote that I can live with.”