HUNTINGTON — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., held one of the first town hall discussions Wednesday since voting to remove President Donald Trump, receiving a round of applause from supporters after saying the evidence of the president’s wrongdoing was “overwhelming.”
Manchin spoke to a room of about 100 people at the Robert C. Byrd Institute in Huntington for a planned discussion on the proposed fiscal year 2021 budget, rural broadband access, health care and other issues facing the nation. However, the discussion frequently referenced Manchin’s strained relationship with Trump and political tribalism that Manchin said has led to gridlock in Washington, D.C.
Manchin said he has not spoken to Trump since the Senate voted along near-party lines to acquit him of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress charges earlier this month. Trump has since tweeted that “the great people of West Virginia are furious at their puppet Democrat Senator, Joe Manchin” for his vote in the historic impeachment trial.
“I looked at the evidence, and what the president did was wrong. It was something that was severely wrong,” he said. “I knew politically we wouldn’t have the votes to impeach him, so I talked to everybody and I said, ‘If we censure him, maybe we can slow him down and maybe we can save him from himself.’”
He had suggested presenting a resolution to censure the president, who was accused of withholding vital aid to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on a political rival. A censure is a formal condemnation of a president and a president’s actions.
“I couldn’t get one of my colleagues on the Republican side to sign a proclamation of censure. I tried,” he said. “I begged them. I said, ‘Come on. This isn’t going to hurt,’ but they were afraid to death because he’s got 73 million Twitter followers.”
Manchin said he felt his vote to convict was correct because the Founding Fathers, particularly Alexander Hamilton, decried the invitation of foreign influence into American affairs. He also said Trump’s team of lawyers failed to present a proper defense by suggesting Trump committed no wrongdoing because he believed his actions were in the best interest of the American people.
Taking questions from the audience, Manchin said he was against Trump’s fiscal year 2021 budget proposal, which suggests reductions in spending for Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income programs and Medicare, among other things.
Manchin said there’s a bill currently on the desk of U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., that would allow Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices. He said McConnell, the Senate majority leader, won’t let the bill come to a vote, which he said would save approximately $16 billion on Medicare spending.
Manchin also said he was again working to gain support for a bipartisan piece of legislation that would require background checks on most private party gun sales. Doing so would close a loophole that allows the mentally ill and prohibited people from getting access to firearms, he said.
However, the amendment was voted down when it was originally introduced in 2013 after losing the support of the National Rifle Association.
Another town hall is planned at the University of Charleston’s Erma Byrd Gallery from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 21.