If there were any senator to vote against his party on the impeachment of President Donald Trump for the sake of his own political preservation, it should be Doug Jones.
The Alabama Democrat represents a state that Trump won in 2016 by more than 27 points. In 2017, Jones beat Roy Moore, a twice-defrocked state Supreme Court Justice accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers, by a point and a half. Jones is now running for reelection and will likely face a much tougher Republican opponent this fall.
But on Wednesday, Jones said that he will vote to convict and remove Trump from office on two charges: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. In December, the Democratic-controlled House passed both articles of impeachment against the President for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his 2020 political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, while withholding military aid as leverage.
“There will be so many who will simply look at what I’m doing today and say it is a profile in courage,” Jones said of the Senate floor Wednesday. “It is not. It is simply a matter of right and wrong. Where doing right is not a courageous act. It is simply following your oath.”
Republicans said Jones’ decision would be his downfall. The Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, released a statement on Jones’ “impending retirement from politics.” The Senate Republican campaign-arm said Jones had “given up” on representing Alabama. And his home state Republican Party said Jones was taking “his marching orders from Chuck Schumer,” the Senate’s Democratic leader.
Jeff Sessions, Trump’s former attorney general who is now running to get his old seat back, tweeted, “In voting to remove our duly-elected President, Doug Jones personifies the left’s irrational enmity against @realDonaldTrump.”
The impeachment trial had already infected the Senate race. Last month, America First Policies, a pro-Trump Super PAC, announced it would air anti-impeachment ads in Alabama costing about $450,000. His potential Republican opponents have been raising money off of their support of the president, while Jones’ campaign gathered names for its fundraising list.
Throughout the Senate trial, Jones called for new witnesses, including those with first-hand knowledge of the events, like former national security John Bolton, who declined to come before the House but would’ve testified before the Senate. In the end, Senate Republicans blocked the vote.
Jones was particularly concerned by the arguments of Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard Law School professor emeritus and high-profile defense attorney on Trump’s defense team. A week ago, Dershowitz argued, “If a president did something that he believes will help him get elected in the public interest that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”
Jones said in a statement Wednesday that he was “deeply troubled” to hear that Trump’s defense team had argued in favor of “virtually unchecked presidential power.”
He took diligent notes, saying in a video released last week that was up to almost 390 pages. He bemoaned the partisanship nature of today versus the Nixon era, how the country is divided into echo chambers and by social media, and yearned for the days when Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley gave the country a “set of common facts” from which people made judgments.
In his statement, Jones said that he made his decision after “many sleepless nights.” He said that the first charge –abuse of power – was met since Trump “placed his personal interests well above the national interests.” He said that he had to convict since impeachment was “the only check on such presidential wrongdoing.”
Jones then explained that the second charge – obstruction of Congress – “gave me even more pause.” But he concluded that that Trump “deliberately and unconstitutionally” refused to cooperate with the House investigation “in any way.”
“To do otherwise risks guaranteeing that no future whistleblower or witness will ever come forward and no future President – Democrat or Republican – will be subject to congressional oversight as mandated by the Constitution,” said Jones.
After he gave his speech, Jones was less inclined to discuss the political ramifications of his decision.
When asked whether his vote would cost him his seat, Jones told reporters, “I don’t know if it does or not.”
“Y’all are the ones that care more about the politics and the elections,” he added.
CNN’s Jeremy Herb and Ali Zaslav contributed to this report.