Vice President Mike Pence urged Senate Democrats to break ranks and "stand up against" the articles of impeachment in a Wall Street Journal op-ed comparing the Senate trial of President Donald Trump to President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial in 1868.
"The question naturally arises: Who, among the Senate Democrats, will stand up to the passions of their party this time? Who will stand up against 'legislative mob rule' and for the rule of law? Who will be the 2020 Profile in Courage?" Pence wrote in the op-ed, published Thursday.
A true profile in courage, he said, "would be a Senate Democrat willing to stand up and reject a partisan impeachment passed by the Democrat-controlled House."
Calling the similarities between Trump's and Johnson's trials "striking," the op-ed praises Republican Sen. Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, who, after breaking with his party, is generally considered to have cast the deciding vote to acquit Johnson.
"Ross was determined to render a fair judgment, resisting his own party's stampede," Pence writes, adding that while "he faced social ostracism and physical assault" for his vote, he "knew he was right."
"Then as now, a political faction has forced a partisan impeachment through the House in the heat of an argument over a difference in policy. Then as now, this faction has cheapened the impeachment process, which the Founders believed should be reserved for only the most grave abuses of the public trust."
Pence's op-ed came just hours after Trump's impeachment trial officially convened with the reading of the impeachment articles and the swearing-in of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and nearly all the senators who will decide whether the President should be removed from office.
Democrats charge that Trump withheld security aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine while pushing for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
The outcome of the trial is all but determined, as the two-thirds vote required to remove the President would need 20 Republican senators to break ranks. But that doesn't mean the trial itself won't have twists and turns -- and potentially some surprises -- as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell navigates the demands of his Senate conference, pressures from Democrats and the whims of Trump and his Twitter account.
Pence has repeatedly assailed the entire impeachment process against Trump. After the House passed the two articles in December, Pence called it a "disgrace" to a crowd of supporters in Michigan.
"It's great to be with so many friends today, and to be out of Washington, DC," the vice president joked to the crowd. "Truthfully, friends, what's happening on Capitol Hill is a disgrace. Since the first day of this administration, Democrats in Washington have been trying to overturn the results of the last election, and they're back at it again today with their partisan impeachment vote."