Lamar Alexander, a Key GOP Senator, Says Trump's Delay of Ukraine Funds Was 'Inappropriate'—but Not Impeachable
Plus: Britain's last day in the European Union, political ads at the Super Bowl, John Delaney drops out of the presidential race, and more...
Impeachment endgame. It was probably inevitable, but now it looks certain: The Senate will not remove President Donald Trump from office.
The Senate is set to debate whether or not to hear additional witnesses in Trump's impeachment trial today, following reports that former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book will say that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine in an attempt to pressure the country into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
But yesterday Sen. Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.), the likely swing vote on the question, announced that he would not support hearing any additional witnesses. And with that, it looks all but certain that the trial will end and Republicans will vote to acquit the president.
Trump won't get off without some scolding from his party. Alexander's announcement came in the form of a letter saying, essentially, that it was "inappropriate" to delay aid to Ukraine but it's not an impeachable offense.
Here's the key passage from Alexander's letter:
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.
Rep. Justin Amash (I–Mich.) is disappointed:
Abuse of power is impeachable.
Impeachment trials have witnesses.
By rejecting these principles, the Senate does lasting harm to our constitutional republic.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) January 31, 2020
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D–Calif.), meanwhile, doesn't have nice things to say about Trump's defense, which argued against the notion that Trump did anything inappropriate at all. She said yesterday that Trump's lawyers have "disgraced" themselves, and she raised the possibility of disbarment.
According to CNN, the Senate may hold the final vote to acquit Trump as early as today.
Brexit is finally happening. Today is Britain's last day as part of the European Union. The celebrations will be "muted," according to The New York Times:
Flags will line Parliament Square and The Mall, the ceremonial avenue leading to Buckingham Palace, and government buildings will be lit up in the red, white and blue of the Union Jack.
A countdown clock will be projected onto the front of 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence, along with a commemorative light display to "symbolize the strength and unity" of the four nations of the United Kingdom, the government said.
But a campaign for a celebratory 11 p.m. chime from Big Ben—the great bell of Parliament's clock tower, which is currently silenced for restoration work—did not succeed.
- John Delaney is dropping out of the presidential race.
- California is looking into a state-based single-payer health care system, again.
- The postal workers union has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) for president, and Sanders continues to perform well in polls.
- Pee-wee Herman is set to stage a dark-and-gritty comeback.
- Alphabet, Google's parent company, is putting a lot of resources into quantum computing.
- The New Yorker has a worthwhile long read on the feminist science-fiction writer Joanna Russ.