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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Some West Virginians have a message for Sen. Joe Manchin regarding his vote to impeach the president: Thanks.
The Democrat was met with a warm reception at a town hall in his home state Wednesday, defying a narrative that locals in the deep red state were fuming over his decision to vote to remove President Donald Trump from office.
In a calm, assured tone, Manchin defended his guilty votes on the two articles to impeachment, saying he believed he made the right choice and that after reviewing the evidence, he determined Trump was in the wrong.
One woman thanked him for his vote,prompting applause. Another called Manchin a man of integrity. A man asked what Manchin could do about the “wannabe emperor” in the White House.
“We did not vote for an imperialist president. That's what history warned us against,” Manchin told the crowd of about 100 people in Huntington.
Trump won nearly 70% of West Virginia's vote in the 2016 election. In Cabell County, where Manchin was speaking Wednesday, the president won 60% of the vote, according to state records.
Trump took to Twitter a few days after the Senate's impeachment vote, saying Manchin was “just a puppet” of Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. A caustic back-and-forth between the two politicians followed, with Manchin saying Trump should act like an adult and the president contending that voters were "really mad at Senator Joe Munchkin in West Virginia. He couldn’t understand the Transcripts.”
Republican leaders in West Virginia also trashed Manchin, with Senate President Mitch Carmichael saying Manchin “yielded to the pressure of the national Democrats.” Republican U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito remarked that West Virginians were “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 in an interview with Fox News, referring to the Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York.
Manchin, a former governor of West Virginia, is serving his second term as U.S. senator after winning a tight race against a Trump-backed opponent in 2018. Still, Manchin has been quick to highlight that he was one of the few Democrats willing to work with the president on certain issues and that he had a better relationship with Trump than most in his party.
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.
In explaining his impeachment vote after it was cast, Manchin said he did what he believed to be right.
“I take no pleasure in these votes, and am saddened this is the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren," Manchin said then. “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.”
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