After 11 days not publicly discussing impeachment, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that he’ll vote against hearing from additional witnesses in the impeachment case against President Donald Trump and will vote for acquittal.
Rubio’s announcement — which came as no surprise from the Miami Republican who has generally backed Trump — came hours before a crucial vote that will determine whether the impeachment trial will continue with additional witnesses such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton or will proceed quickly to a vote on whether to acquit or remove Trump from office.
Rubio’s analysis of Trump’s conduct differed from other Republican senators. In his statement, Rubio said he assumed the allegations made by Democrats about Trump’s conduct were true when considering whether or not to convict.
“Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office,” Rubio wrote.
Republicans, who hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, are expected to prevail on both votes, and a few Democrats could break with their party to acquit Trump on the two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“I will not vote to remove the president because doing so would inflict extraordinary and potentially irreparable damage to our already divided nation,” Rubio said in a statement. “I also reject the argument that unless we call new witnesses this is not a fair trial.”
Trump was impeached by House Democrats over his decision to halt military aid to Ukraine until the country’s newly elected president launched an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. The second article impeachment focused on his decision not to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the matter.
Rubio said he has a high threshold for impeachment, and he generally isn’t in favor of impeachment in an election year when only one party supports the impeachment articles sent to the Senate.
“For purposes of answering my threshold question I assumed what is alleged is true,” Rubio wrote. “And then I sought to answer the question of whether under these assumptions it would be in the interest of the nation to remove the president.”
He said he disagreed with the House Managers’ argument that “if we find the allegations they have made are true, failing to remove the president leaves us with no remedy to constrain this or future presidents. Congress and the courts have multiple ways by which to constrain the power of the executive. And ultimately, voters themselves can hold the president accountable in an election, including the one just nine months from now.”
Rubio did not weigh in on the facts and allegations presented by House Managers regarding Trump’s conduct, which the president and other Republican senators have described as a “perfect.”
Rubio, who normally speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, was one of a handful of senators from both parties who stayed quiet about the trial while it was ongoing.
But his silence didn’t stop him from capitalizing from the trial.
On the first day of the impeachment trial, Rubio made ripples on social media when he pulled a quill pen from his desk on the Senate floor. The moment was captured by a sketch artist and went viral, prompting Rubio’s campaign to send an email with the subject line “Take notes like Marco!” The email promises to send supporters who donate at least $35 a quill pen with the senator’s name on it. The money goes to WinRed, a newly launched Republican small-dollar fundraising effort that promotes Republicans running for office.
Rubio asked eight questions of the House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers during that phase of the trial. All of his questions were asked in conjunction with other Republican senators, and he asked one question with Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who will vote in favor of witnesses.
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott, who has vocally defended the president throughout the trial and even bought airtime to run a TV ad in Iowa that attacks Biden and his son, confirmed late Thursday that he will vote against witnesses and acquit the president.
“This was [the House Managers’] job to prove the case, and they haven’t proven it so far,” Scott said to reporters on Friday.
Scott said in a Thursday night interview with Fox News that “I believe [Trump] will be acquitted tomorrow.”
“I don’t believe we’re going to see — we’re not going to vote for witnesses,” Scott said. “The Democrats had their choice, had their time. They could have called — they wanted Bolton, they could have called Bolton back in the House, and they decided not to do it. So, I don’t think we’re going to vote for witnesses, and I think we’ll finish this up tomorrow night.”
A vote on witnesses is expected early Friday evening, but the timing of a vote to acquit or remove Trump from office is uncertain.