With the notable exception of Mitt Romney of Utah, most Republicans declined to even tut-tut the president’s behavior, scared of either his wrath or that of his supporters.

Alexander broke that stasis. His statement split the difference, acknowledging Trump’s error while also concluding that it didn’t meet the standard for removal. Notably, he said he didn’t think there was a need to call witnesses, because the Democrats had already proved the facts of their case against Trump—even if he was not prepared to endorse the remedy they demanded…

Weak though it is, Alexander’s statement still placed him outside the mainstream of Senate Republicans. But this expression of disapproval from a retiring elder statesman of the caucus seems to have given some other members the courage to take a similar stand. The result is several senators who acknowledge or imply that the president is guilty of the charges against him but don’t think they merit removing him from office.