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Republican senators urge Trump to avoid impeachment talk at State of the Union

Posted February 3, 2020 2:22 p.m. EST

— Republican senators are expected to vote on Wednesday afternoon to acquit President Donald Trump in the third presidential impeachment trial in US history. They would prefer the President not draw attention to that fact on Tuesday night, when he commands the country's attention with his State of the Union address.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said it would be "smart" to focus on other issues, encouraged Trump to be "positive," and posited that "most people" are ready to move on from impeachment.

LIVE UPDATES: Impeachment trial of President Trump

"I hope he is, too, because I am," said Graham.

In January 1999, President Bill Clinton gave the State of the Union in the same House chamber that had impeached him a month earlier. Clinton would be acquitted by the Senate not long later but did not mention the proceedings in his address. "Clinton handled it pretty well," said Graham, who was a House impeachment manager at the time.

It's unclear whether Trump will tout on Tuesday his expected acquittal. A senior administration official said Friday that the speech will be "forward-looking" and "optimistic."

Republicans in the Senate hope that is true. In interviews on Monday, Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Marco Rubio of Florida, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Roy Blunt of Missouri all advised Trump not to discuss his impeachment.

"If I were him, I'd avoid that subject," Blunt said. "It's time to move on."

In December, the House impeached Trump on two counts — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his potential 2020 political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, while using military aid as leverage. In January, 51% of Americans said the Senate should vote to convict Trump and remove him from office, according to a CNN poll.

While 69% of Americans said that the trial should feature new witnesses who declined to testify before the House, the Senate voted not to do so.

The Republican senators said Trump should attempt to unite the country. Ernst said she wanted Trump to tout the strong economy and pledge to fix the country's crumbling infrastructure, while Cassidy said Trump should talk about lowering the costs of prescription drugs.

Still, they have little idea what he'll do.

"Does anyone imagine they know what the President is going to do?" asked Cassidy. "I mean, not me."

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