Lamar Alexander says Senate should not 'substitute its judgment' for that of the voters

In an exclusive interview with "Meet the Press," the Tennessee senator explains his key vote against witnesses in the impeachment trial.

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By Ben Kamisar

DES MOINES, Iowa — Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Saturday that while he believes it was “crossing a line” for President Donald Trump to delay assistance to Ukraine to “encourage” an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, his actions fell short of removal of the president by the Senate and that voters should instead decide his future in office.

“I think he shouldn't have done it. I think it was wrong. Inappropriate was the way I'd say — improper, crossing the line. And then the only question left is who decides what to do about that,” Alexander said during an exclusive interview airing on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

"It struck me, really for the first time, early last week, that we're not just being asked to remove the president from office. We're saying, tell him he can't run in the 2020 election which begins Monday in Iowa," Alexander said.

“I think what he did is a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes, and misdemeanors. I don't think it's the kind of inappropriate action that the framers would expect the Senate to substitute its judgment for the people in picking a president.”

Democrats had hoped Alexander, who is retiring at the end of the year, would cross party lines to vote to allow to hear new witnesses in the Senate's impeachment trial, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.

But ultimately, just two Republicans voted to support hearing from witnesses, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, leaving Democrats two votes short.

When asked on “Meet the Press” why he didn’t support a vote to hear from more witnesses, Alexander said he made the decision because he already believed that the president did what he was accused of.

“If you have eight witnesses who say someone left the scene of an accident, why do you need nine? I mean, the question for me was: Do I need more evidence to conclude that the president did what he did? And I concluded no,” he said.

“He delayed the military and other assistance to Ukraine in order to encourage that investigation,” into Biden.