Lamar Alexander says charges against Trump are 'proved' but will vote against witnesses

Jon Ward
·Senior Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., announced Thursday night he will vote against calling witnesses to the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump, likely ending the last real suspense of the trial and opening the door for a speedy conclusion Friday or Saturday.

“There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter,” Alexander said late Thursday in a statement, after another daylong session in the Senate, the ninth day of the trial overall.

Alexander said the charges against the president — that he inappropriately pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens — had been “proved” by the House managers, and that the president had acted improperly.

“It was inappropriate for the president to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and to withhold United States aid to encourage that investigation,” Alexander wrote, adding that the president’s actions were the kind that “undermines the principle of equal justice under the law.”

“But,” he added, “the Constitution does not give the Senate the power to remove the president from office and ban him from this year’s ballot simply for actions that are inappropriate.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) heads toward the Senate Chamber before the start of President Donald Trump's impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2020 in Washington, DC. Senators will vote Tuesday on the rules for the impeachment trial, which is expected to last three to five weeks. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Lamar Alexander heads toward the Senate chamber before the start of President Trump’s impeachment trial on Jan. 21. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did. I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision in the presidential election that begins in Iowa on Monday,” Alexander said.

Alexander, who is retiring this year after 17 years as a U.S. senator, did fault the House impeachment of Trump as “shallow, hurried and wholly partisan.”

He concluded that the charges against Trump did not “meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense.”

He also said that because of a lack of bipartisan support for convicting Trump, removing him from office “would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist.”

Alexander’s decision likely will grant the president’s desire to see himself vindicated in a quick dismissal of the charges against him, and to deliver the State of the Union address next Tuesday, having been acquitted.

The Senate is scheduled to vote on the question of witnesses on Friday, and Alexander’s opposition for calling witnesses means that at the most there will be 50 votes for witnesses and 50 against, with support from only three Republicans: Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.

Only Collins had announced as of Thursday night that she supported witnesses.

If there is a 50-50 tie, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, could break it with a ruling, but is not expected to do so.

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