Trump criticizes West Virginia Democrat on impeachment votes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday criticized Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia for voting guilty on two articles of impeachment, aiming to weaken the senator’s political standing in a state Trump carried by a whopping 42 percentage points in 2016.

Trump tweeted that he was “very surprised & disappointed” with Manchin’s votes. He claimed no president has done more for the state.

Trump asserted in a subsequent tweet that Manchin was “just a puppet” for the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate.

“That’s all he is!” Trump tweeted.

Manchin said in announcing his decision on the impeachment vote Wednesday that the evidence presented by House managers clearly supported the charges brought against the president.

“I take no pleasure in these votes, and am saddened this is the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren,” Manchin said. “I have always wanted this president, and every president, to succeed, but I deeply love our country and must do what I think is best for the nation.”

Manchin’s office didn’t immediately comment Friday evening.

In West Virginia, the Republican leader of the state Senate said “there’s just a general sense of shock” after Manchin’s vote.

“You cannot walk this back,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael. “I think he yielded to the pressure of the national Democrats to stay united on this issue with the Washington liberal establishment.”

Manchin remained publicly undecided on impeachment until essentially the last minute, saying he wanted to get all the evidence he could before casting his vote. He stirred speculation about his intentions when he floated the idea of censuring the president, though the move didn’t gain much traction, and again when he said that Hunter Biden would be a relevant witness in the trial.

West Virginia Sen. Roman Prezioso, the Democratic minority leader of the state Senate, said it’s often hard to know where Manchin is going to come down on an issue.

“Anyone who knows him knows he’s not a puppet,” Prezioso said. “He’s an independent voice, he’ll make a decision predicated on the facts.”

Manchin is serving his second term as a U.S. senator, and has also served as the state’s governor. He and Trump appeared to have a warmer relationship than the president has with most Democratic lawmakers. Trump invited him to the White House in August when the president presented former basketball player Bob Cousy with the Medal of Freedom. A month later, Manchin was again at the White House when Trump presented the Medal of Freedom to another former basketball great, Jerry West.

Republicans have gained the upper hand in West Virginia in recent decades. But the moderate Manchin won a second full term to the Senate in the 2018 elections in a tight race against a Trump-backed challenger.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a West Virginia Republican who voted against impeachment, told Fox News on Thursday that people in the state are “rather mystified” by Manchin’s vote.

“I just feel that probably Senator Schumer just pulled the noose a little tight and said ‘come on, everybody, we’re going to jump off this cliff together,’ and back here, West Virginians, they’re very surprised,” she said.

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