It’s not over yet … but it’s getting closer and closer to over with this press release e-mailed from the office of retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). After a late-night session closed out the question session of the trial of Donald Trump, Alexander declared he’d heard and seen enough:
“I worked with other senators to make sure that we have the right to ask for more documents and witnesses, but there is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven and that does not meet the United States Constitution’s high bar for an impeachable offense.
“There is no need for more evidence to prove that the president asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter; he said this on television on October 3, 2019, and during his July 25, 2019, telephone call with the president of Ukraine. There is no need for more evidence to conclude that the president withheld United States aid, at least in part, to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens; the House managers have proved this with what they call a ‘mountain of overwhelming evidence.’ There is no need to consider further the frivolous second article of impeachment that would remove the president for asserting his constitutional prerogative to protect confidential conversations with his close advisers.
“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. When elected officials inappropriately interfere with such investigations, it undermines the principle of equal justice under the law. But 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.
“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.
“The Senate has spent nine long days considering this ‘mountain’ of evidence, the arguments of the House managers and the president’s lawyers, their answers to senators’ questions and the House record. Even if the House charges were true, they do not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense.
“The framers believed that there should never, ever be a partisan impeachment. That is why the Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of the Senate for conviction. Yet not one House Republican voted for these articles. If this shallow, hurried and wholly partisan impeachment were to succeed, it would rip the country apart, pouring gasoline on the fire of cultural divisions that already exist. It would create the weapon of perpetual impeachment to be used against future presidents whenever the House of Representatives is of a different political party.
“Our founding documents provide for duly elected presidents who serve with ‘the consent of the governed,’ not at the pleasure of the United States Congress. Let the people decide.”
Alexander took the middle ground within the caucus. He won’t defend what Trump did, but says it only rises to the level of “inappropriate” rather than “high crimes or misdemeanors.” As Alan Dershowitz declared in his presentation, let the public decide.
Roll Call’s Katherine Tully-McManus notes that the math is getting very bad for Senate Democrats. The news for Chuck Schumer wasn’t all bad, however:
Senators used their second and final day of questioning in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump to tee up debate on whether to subpoena documents and witnesses that did not appear during the House’s inquiry. The late-night announcement that Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander will vote against additional witnesses Friday signals there likely won’t be enough votes to continue the trial much longer. …
With all eyes on moderates, Republicans and Democrats who reside in the middle took the chance Thursday to dig into remaining uncertainties they had about the case before the next day’s critical vote. Alexander, a moderate and institutionalist, had been mum on the issue until Thursday night.
Among the most scrutinized senators, Maine Republican Susan Collins was first out of the gate after the chamber adjourned Thursday to announce she would vote to consider witnesses. “I believe hearing from certain witnesses would give each side the opportunity to more fully and fairly make their case, resolve any ambiguities, and provide additional clarity. Therefore, I will vote in support of the motion to allow witnesses and documents to be subpoenaed,” she said in a statement.
Collins was always likely to vote that direction. She faces a tough re-election campaign in a purple-to-blue state, and she needs some centrist boost after the Kavanaugh vote. Some wondered whether Alexander would join her, given that he’s not going to face voters again at all, but he’s sticking with the team. Now it’s down to Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, and that only gets Schumer to 50. In a tie vote, the motion will fail — and Murkowski’s been sending mixed signals ever since Jerrold Nadler accused Republicans of participating in a cover-up. Will both of them allow the Senate to fall into a tie, or will they just put an end to the proceedings and get to the acquittal everyone knows is coming?
We don’t know yet … but we’re getting close.