Key GOP senator to vote against impeachment witnesses

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 day-long 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 said, 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.”

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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., walks away from the media to the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol Wednesday Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., center, steps up to a microphone as Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., left, and Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., finish speaking with reporters during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
As President Donald Trump's impeachment trial shifts to questions from senators, the lawmakers use these cards to hand-write their inquiries which are passed up to Chief Justice John Roberts, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, pauses as he speaks to a reporter outside the Senate chamber during a break in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, right, confers with his communications staffer Katie Mulhall Quintela, left, during a break in President Donald Trump's impeachment trial at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Democratic impeachment manager House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., right, walks out of the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol Wednesday Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., walks out of the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
House Democratic impeachment manager, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., walks out of the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol Wednesday Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
House Democratic impeachment manager Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., right, walks out of the Senate chamber during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, right, speaks to the media during a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., waits to speaks with reporters during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, rides an escalator before speaking with reporters during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks with reporters during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the lead Democratic manager, leaves the Senate chamber during a break as the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stretches into the night, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. waits to speak with reporters during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., leaves the Senate chamber during a break as the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress stretches into the night, in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., talks to the media break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., center, walks with aides to the Senate chamber after a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
In this image from video, presiding officer Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts reads a question during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, House impeachment manager Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., answers a question during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, House impeachment manager Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, answers a question during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, Eric Herschmann, an attorney for President Donald Trump, answers a question during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, Eric Herschmann, an attorney for President Donald Trump, answers a question during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, White House counsel Pat Cipollone answers a question during the impeachment trial against Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, White House counsel Pat Cipollone speaks during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, House impeachment manager Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., answers a question during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
In this image from video, House impeachment manager Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, walks from the podium after answering a question during the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (Senate Television via AP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., walks to the Senate chamber after a break in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday Jan 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts departs at the end of the day in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts departs at the end of the day in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters as he departs at the end of the day in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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“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 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, R-Maine, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-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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