Law & the Courts

GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Pivotal Swing Vote, Comes Out against Calling Witnesses

Sen. Lamar Alexander in 2017 (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) announced on Thursday night his opposition to summoning witnesses to testify at the Senate impeachment trial, further slimming the chances any witnesses will be called at all.

“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,” Alexander said in a statement. “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.'”

Alexander concluded that Trump’s actions were “inappropriate,” but that “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 senator’s admission that Trump’s actions were unbecoming but not impeachable paralleled arguments from the president’s defense counsel Alan Dershowitz. Earlier this week, Dershowitz told the Senate that even if the president did attempt a quid pro quo of Biden investigations for military aid, the action would still not be an impeachable offense.

Alexander had been considered a swing vote, so his announcement against calling witnesses will not be welcome to Democrats hoping to subpoena former White House national security adviser John Bolton.

Another swing vote, moderate Republican Susan Collins of Maine, announced on Thursday evening she would vote in favor of calling 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.

Democrats would need four Republican senators to vote with them to call witnesses. In addition to Collins, Senators Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) are expected to vote to call witnesses. If the vote ends in a tie, Chief Justice John Roberts has the option of casting a tie-breaking vote but is not required to. If the vote does end in a tie, no witnesses will be called.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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