Friday, February 07, 2020

More on Lamar Alexander Got it Right.

The House managers had proved their case to his satisfaction even without new witnesses, Mr. Alexander added, but “they do not meet the Constitution’s ‘treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors’ standard for an impeachable offense.” Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse told reporters “let me be clear: Lamar speaks for lots and lots of us.”

This isn’t an abdication. It’s a wise judgment based on what Mr. Trump did and the rushed, partisan nature of the House impeachment. Mr. Trump was wrong to ask Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden, and wrong to use U.S. aid as leverage. His call with Ukraine’s President was far from “perfect.” It was reckless and self-destructive, as Mr. Trump often is.

In his statement, Alexander expressed the correct view on the underlying matter — one we have been urging Republicans to publicly adopt since impeachment first got off the ground.

The Tennessee Republican said that it has been amply established that Donald Trump used a hold on defense aid to pressure the Ukrainians to undertake the investigations that he wanted, and that this was, as he mildly put it, inappropriate. But this misconduct, he argued, doesn’t rise to the level of the high crimes and misdemeanors required to remove a president from office. If the Senate were to do so anyway, it would further envenom the nation’s partisan divide. Besides, there is a national election looming where the public itself can decide whether Trump should stay in office or not.

Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander’s words reminded me of the struggle my father, John Doar, had as he considered whether the conduct of President Richard Nixon was so serious that it should lead the House to impeach him and the Senate to remove him from office. Dad was in charge of the House Judiciary Committee staff, which took seven months (between December 1973 and July 1974) to examine the evidence and consider the question. What he concluded, and what the House Judiciary Committee by bipartisan majorities also found, was that Nixon deserved impeachment and removal for a pattern of conduct over a multi-year period that both obstructed justice and abused power.

President Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine, though inappropriate, differs significantly from Nixon’s in one crucial respect. Where Nixon’s impeachable abuse of power occurred over a period of several years, the conduct challenged by the House’s impeachment of Trump was not nearly as prolonged. From July to September of last year, Trump attempted to cajole a foreign government to open an investigation into his political opponent. That conduct was wrong. But it’s not the same as what Nixon did over multiple years.

Alexander now finds himself being excoriated by both sides. The Trump supporters will never forget his failure to fall in line and salute. The anti-Trumpers are expressing their disappointment.

I’ve never been a Lamar fan. But I would like to make the case that he did exactly the right thing and he expressed the position of the majority of his Republican colleagues. He, and anyone who has been paying attention, says Trump did what he was accused of and what he did was wrong – inappropriate. But it did not rise to the level of removing him from office. There was no point in listening to additional witnesses and dragging things out. Everyone knew he was guilty. But if Trump is to be removed from office, let the voters do it.

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