Alabama Democratic senator may defect, support Trump in impeachment trial

Doug Jones facing tough reelection battle in solid GOP state

Alabama’s first Democratic U.S. senator in more than 20 years is being eyed by some political observers as possibly defecting from his party and supporting President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial in 2020.

In a recent interview on ABC's "This Week," Doug Jones said if the impeachment "dots aren't connected and there are other explanations that I think are consistent with innocence, I will go that way."

At the same time, Jones said if the dots do connect, “then I think it's a serious matter. I think it's an impeachable matter.”

»MORE: Who are the major players in a Trump impeachment trial?

Jones is facing a 2020 reelection that could include a Republican challenge from former Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who resigned to serve as Trump's attorney general. Also running in the GOP primary is former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.

Jones won the seat in 2018 in a special election, defeating Republican Roy Moore.

Despite House Democrats' professed sense of urgency in passing impeachment articles, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the charges over to the Senate. Pelosi is demanding information from the Senate on how it plans to conduct Trump's trial and hopes to give Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York more leverage in talks with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

For his part, McConnell has predicted one or two Democrats may bolt from their party’s toe-the-line impeachment strategy.

“I have no idea what Mitch McConnell's talking about these days,” Jones told ABC. “He talks about being an impartial juror, but at the same time, he's going to take an oath to be a partial juror. I have yet to figure out what he's talking about.”

»MORE: Your impeachment guide for the holidays

McConnell has not ruled out calling witnesses but also indicated he was in no hurry to seek new testimony, either. Schumer has said any trial without witnesses would be a “sham.” Schumer also is demanding witnesses who refused to appear during House committee hearings, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton, be required to testify.

McConnell has secured Republican support for his plans to impose a framework drawn from the 1999 impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton. Schumer is arguing the circumstances in the Trump trial are different from those of Clinton’s.

Trump is only the third sitting president in American history to be impeached, joining Andrew Johnson and Clinton.

The two articles of impeachment by House Democrats — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — point to Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate 2020 political rival Joe Biden while withholding as leverage military aid the country relies to counter Russia as well as his efforts to block the House investigation.

The Constitution requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict in an impeachment trial, thus making Trump’s actual removal from office highly unlikely in the GOP-controlled Senate.