Lamar Alexander: Trump's actions 'improper' but 'long way' from high crimes and misdemeanors

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Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, before the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/ Jacquelyn Martin)

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(CNN) — Tennessee Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander said he believes Donald Trump acted improperly and crossed a line in the Ukraine scandal but said the President’s actions are “a long way from treason, bribery, high crimes and misdemeanors.”

“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 told NBC’s “Meet the Press” in a clip released Saturday.

NBC’s Chuck Todd responded, “Well, who decides what to do about that?”

“The people. The people, is my conclusion,” Alexander said.

Trump’s decision to withhold nearly $400 million in US military aid to Ukraine as he pressed the country to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, his potential 2020 general election rival, are at the center of the President’s impeachment trial. Trump and his allies have repeatedly made unfounded and false claims to allege that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine.

“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,” he said.

Alexander said late Thursday he would oppose calling witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial, a decision that meant the trial was all but certain to come to a swift end without hearing from witnesses or subpoenaing documents.

Democrats had hoped Alexander and a handful of other GOP senators would join them in calling for witnesses in the wake of former national security adviser John Bolton’s revelations in his draft book manuscript about Trump conditioning US aid to Ukraine on investigations into Democrats. But the Senate on Friday voted to block any witnesses from being called. Two Republicans, Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, joined Democrats to back extending the trial.

Senate leaders struck an agreement to hold the final vote to acquit Trump on the two articles of impeachment at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The timing means that the acquittal vote will occur after Trump comes up to Capitol Hill to deliver the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

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