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WASHINGTON – When Senator Joe Manchin learned that a host of pro-Trump protesters threatened to disrupt Congressional tally of the electoral college votes in the Capitol on January 6, the 73-year-old, 6-foot-3 former football player inches said he was not ready to back down.
“My intention was to stay and fight, ‘Let them in. Let’s go. “But I didn’t know what was going on,” the West Virginia Democrat told USA TODAY in an exclusive interview. “You blackmailed a lot of people. I thought nothing of that. But in 10 or 15 minutes, a SWAT team arrives with all their gear and says, “You’re out of here. Go now. Don don’t even stop.”
Manchin was a rare Democrat who had a friendly relationship with former President Donald Trump, and at one point there were reports that the President wanted to appoint him as his energy secretary (which would have given the Governor Republican of West Virginia a chance to fill the Mandchin Senate seat), but the senator withdrew his name from consideration.
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Manchin reportedly turned Trump badly, voting to impeach the president twice, including in February for instigating the Jan.6 crowd to attack Congress. Trump has been acquitted twice.
The Senior Senator from West Virginia has told the United States TODAY that he still cannot believe the events that unfolded that day as Congress asserts Joe Biden’s presidential victory. Although he had already determined at the time of the insurgency that the former president was a divisive force, Manchin said the events of January 6 still stunned him.
Manchin sat in his Capitol Hill office with USA TODAY to discuss several topics, including Trump’s rhetoric that he says contributed to the Jan.6 attack, his ability to curtail part of the progressive agenda of Biden and his insistence that the filibuster in the Senate remain despite pressure from Democrats to remove it so that any bill can pass with 51 votes instead of 60.
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On Trump and January 6:
Manchin: “I’ve heard Trump’s rhetoric forever. I got along well with Donald Trump. We had a good rapport. He called me all the time. We talked both ways,” he said.
But “he liked conflict and he liked this turmoil. And that’s good if you’re in business. But for the public service it doesn’t work. The whole principle of the public service is to bring people together to get consensus. . And Donald Trump didn’t do it that way. So when I started to come to that conclusion, I think it’s just a lot of rhetoric. I didn’t know there was this type of fever. and repressed hatred in the people he allowed them to unleash. “
On whether Biden goes too far to the left:
Manchin: “It’s a huge responsibility that he has, and he tries to bring everyone together. I know he wants it. I know it’s in his DNA. And I’d like to see that. The first piece of legislation. (COVID-19 relief), I knew when he said he had to do something because we had COVID. We had people losing their jobs. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. My best judgment was to do something that we can agree on – bipartisan. But he had a bigger mission and I understood that. He is running for president. He wants to show his strength. “
Manchin: “I talk to everyone. I have dinner with everyone. If I can find a way forward, we’ll find it. You can only find it if you know people and unless you really want to be one. friend and want it to work honestly, not a gotcha moment.
Why Congress shouldn’t rush an infrastructure bill:
Manchin: “Now we’re in a situation where we don’t have this emergency (unlike COVID-19 relief), this time sensitivity, that ‘We have to do this. We need to build infrastructure. “The infrastructure should have been done 10 or 20 years ago. It’s not like a do-or-die right now. We can fix it, we should fix it, but it should be based on the infrastructure. “
On whether Biden is asking too much with his $ 2.25 trillion infrastructure and jobs bill:
Manchin: “There’s a tremendous amount placed there, and that would be nice as an ambitious reach. But it could be more than what we can do and get enough votes to do it. Now what they (the Democrats) ) want to do is just get rid of the rules and do whatever you want to do. But if you’re doing that, think about the fluctuations every four years as things change – or every two years. “
On how the riots on January 6 changed him:
Manchin: “Politically, more than anything else. How fragile we are. How nearly we have lost our country.”
On how the Capitol Riots affected his support for the filibuster:
Manchin: “It gave me more determination (to fight for it). If you want to lose it completely and you want to be a government that wasn’t the way we were formed to try to form a more perfect union – not perfect, but more perfect – this is not the way to do it. . “
On Democrats trying to push through the infrastructure bill using legislative tactic that doesn’t require GOP votes:
Manchin: “That wasn’t what it was supposed to be. Why do you think (former Democratic Senator from West Virginia) Robert Byrd put the Byrd rule in? To try to keep them inside the guards- body. That’s not why. And if they want to. get exemptions so they can use it as much as they want to run this Congress, can you imagine when our Republican friends take over? ? And it will happen. It will come full circle again. “
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Joe Manchin talks about Biden, the Capitol Riots and Trump in an exclusive interview