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Impeachment trial: Senators explain votes ahead of final verdict

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Susan Collins says she'll vote to acquit Trump 01:12

Washington — The Senate reconvened Tuesday for floor speeches by members a day before a final vote in President Trump's impeachment trial, one which is all but certain to result in his acquittal.

Senators had 10 minutes each to speak and explain their decision on whether to remove Mr. Trump from office on two articles of impeachment. The Senate met Tuesday in regular "legislative session," meaning Chief Justice John Roberts did not preside over proceedings.

Republican Senator Susan Collins announced she plans to vote to acquit the president, saying House impeachment managers had failed to show the president committed a high crime or misdemeanor warranting removal from office.

House impeachment managers and the president's legal team presented their closing arguments Monday before the first senators were given the chance to speak. Democrats invoked the judgment of history to urge senators to vote to convict the president, while Mr. Trump's team reiterated their belief that the process was flawed from the start and required his acquittal.

Two other key senators addressed the chamber Monday evening. Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the Democrats who was considering voting to acquit, said he remained undecided and was struggling with the decision. Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who was a pivotal vote against calling new witnesses, announced she "cannot vote to convict."

The president will deliver his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night from the chamber of the House that voted to impeach him less than two months ago.


Collins says she thinks Trump has learned "a pretty big lesson" from impeachment

Susan Collins says she'll vote to acquit Trump 01:12

Senator Susan Collins discussed her decision to vote to acquit the president in an exclusive interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell.

"I believe that the president has learned from this case," Collins said. "The president has been impeached. That's a pretty big lesson."

"He was impeached. And there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call," Collins explained, referring to his July 25 call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Mr. Trump asked for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. "I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future."

Read more here.

By Grace Segers

Susan Collins says she'll vote to acquit Trump

Speaking on the Senate floor, Maine Senator Susan Collins said that she will vote to acquit Mr. Trump. Collins was one of two Republicans, along with Mitt Romney, to vote to hear from witnesses in the Senate trial.

"The Framers recognized that in removing a sitting president we would be acting against not only the office holders but the voters," Collins said, adding it would have a "traumatic and disruptive impact" on the country to remove Mr. Trump from office.

Collins referenced her vote to acquit President Clinton in 1999, even though she believed House managers had proved Clinton had committed a crime, because the president's behavior did not rise to the level of impeachment.

She said the July 25 call with the Ukrainian president was "improper" and "demonstrated very poor judgment."

"I do not believe that the House has met its burden of showing that the president's conduct, however flawed, warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office," Collins said.

Collins also said she did not believe the House managers did enough to back up the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress.

"The House substituted its own political preference for speed over finality," Collins said.

By Grace Segers

White House spokesman: The word "impeachment" is not in Trump's speech

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said the president's State of the Union address doesn't include references to impeachment.

"I read the speech but the word impeachment is not in it," Gidley said. Mr. Trump could of course still bring it up, even if the topic isn't in his prepared remarks.

By Grace Segers

Rand Paul reads question that was blocked during Senate trial

Republican Senator Rand Paul slammed Democrats in a speech on the Senate floor explaining his vote to acquit the president, and read aloud a question he submitted during the trial that Chief Justice John Roberts refused to ask.

The question included a name that some have alleged to be the whistleblower whose complaint about the president's dealings with Ukraine sparked the impeachment inquiry. Paul, appearing next to a poster-size printout of the question, said he did not have independent confirmation of the whistleblower's identity and said Roberts should have allowed the question.

Paul's inquiry referenced unconfirmed reports about a "close relationship" between a member of Representative Adam Schiff's staff and the person in question.

"You say, 'Well, we should protect the whistleblower and the whistleblower deserves anonymity,''" Paul said, characterizing criticism from colleagues about his question. "The law does not preserve anonymity. His boss is not supposed to say anything about him. He's not supposed to be fired. I'm for that." 

But Paul said if someone "gamed the system" in order to "take down the president," the Senate "should know about that."

The Kentucky senator said it was ironic that Democrats were accusing Mr. Trump of interfering in the 2020 election, while they "used the impeachment process to go after their political opponent."

"They didn't convince one Republican," Paul said of the House managers. However, two Republican senators, Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, voted in favor of hearing witnesses in the Senate trial.

By Grace Segers

Lamar Alexander says he'll vote to acquit and shoots down proposed censure

Senate Impeachment Trial Of President Trump Continues
Senator Lamar Alexander leaves the Senate chamber during a recess in the impeachment trial of President Trump at the Capitol on January 31, 2020. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who was one of the key votes against allowing new witnesses, told reporters he will vote to acquit the president.

"My conclusion is the president did what he's charged with doing, at least in terms of interfering with the Ukraine election," Alexander said on Capitol Hill. But he called the charges "a far cry" from what he considers an impeachable offense. 

Alexander added that he doesn't support the idea of censuring the president as an alternative to removing him from office.

"I don't see it," Alexander said. 

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin floated the censure proposal during his floor speech on Monday, saying he believed a "bipartisan majority" of senators would support a motion.

"Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines, and as an equal branch of government to formally denounce the president's actions and hold him accountable," Manchin said. "His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate, and censure would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms." — Myles Nuzzi


McConnell: "Vote to acquit the president of these charges"

Speaking on the Senate floor to explain his vote in favor of acquitting Mr. Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed "Washington Democrats" for forcing an impeachment inquiry. McConnell said that the founders intended for the "sober and stable Senate" from unjustly convicting a president.

"Washington Democrats think President Donald Trump committed a high crime or misdemeanor the moment — the moment — he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election," McConnell claimed. "That is the original sin of his presidency, that he won and they lost."

McConnell also accused Democrats of hypocritically undermining norms with the impeachment inquiry.

"'We think this president is a bull in a china shop, so we're going to drive a bulldozer through the china shop to get rid of him,'" McConnell said of the Democrats' reasoning.

Even though this is the first impeachment trial in American history where the Senate will not hear from witnesses, McConnell said "our trial gave both sides a fair platform."

McConnell also argued that the founders had a contingency for removing a president other than impeachment: "They're called elections." He said that Democrats were just concerned about losing to Mr. Trump in 2020.

"They don't get to rip the choice away from the voters just because they're afraid they might lose again," McConnell said in an outraged tone.

McConnell made the final case for voting to acquit, saying it was necessary to "reject the House abuse of power."

"Tomorrow we will vote. We must vote to reject the House abuse of power. Vote to protect our institutions. Vote to reject new precedents that would reduce the Framers' design to rubble. Vote to keep factional fever from boiling over and scorching our republic," McConnell said. "I urge every one of our colleagues to cast the vote the facts, the evidence, the Constitution and the common good clearly require. Vote to acquit the president of these charges."

By Grace Segers

Trump might not address impeachment in State of the Union

A senior administration official tells CBS News that advisers are urging Mr. Trump not to mention impeachment during his State of the Union speech, but to use the address to focus on his policy achievements instead. However, it's unclear whether Mr. Trump will heed this advice.

The president is making final edits to the speech with his team throughout the day, and as of Tuesday morning impeachment is not mentioned. For months, Mr. Trump has "cobbled together" pieces in his signature black marker for speech writers, recently slipping these notes to staffers as he gets ideas, the official said.

On Sunday, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said she has seen a draft of the speech, and it does not include impeachment.  — Weijia Jiang and Paula Reid

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