Republicans Call Trump Wrong, But Decline Punishment
A theme emerged Friday from more moderate Republicans preparing vote to end President Trump's impeachment trial -- what he did was wrong, but not bad enough to remove him.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) started it late Thursday night when he decided he did not want to call witnesses in the trial, saying the president's actions were both wrong and proven by the House.
"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," Alexander said. "I believe that the Constitution provides that the people should make that decision."
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was not expected to support impeachment, also conceded at least some of the allegations. "Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a President from office," Rubio said.
Rubio, like Alexander, said it should left up to voters to decide Trump's fate, although neither supported calling the witnesses for the voters to hear. Rubio said moving to remove the president would simply do too much harm.
"Can anyone doubt that at least half of the country would view his removal as illegitimate — as nothing short of a coup d’état?" Rubio said. "It is difficult to conceive of any scheme Putin could undertake that would undermine confidence in our democracy more than removal would."
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) called Trump's Ukraine efforts "wrong and inappropriate," but concluded "I do not believe the president's actions rise to the level of a duly-elected president from office."
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) didn't explicitly condemn Trump's deeds, but suggested there was simply no point in continuing a polarized trial.
“I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate," Murkowski said in announcing she would not vote to extend the trial by calling witnesses. "I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed."
She also added an unexpected reason -- she wanted to guard the integrity of the Chief Justice of the United States. Had Murkowski decided to vote for witnesses, the final vote likely would have been 50 to 50. Chief Justice John Roberts would have been put in the spot of deciding.
“Some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice," she said. "I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded our institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.
“We are sadly at a low point of division in this country,” Murkowski concluded.