Mr. Alexander said the evidence against the president is so overwhelming that no further testimony is needed: “If you have eight witnesses who say someone left the scene of an accident, why do you need nine?” he asked Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Yet the retiring senator maintains that while Mr. Trump’s actions were “inappropriate,” they do not merit impeachment. That’s a line a few GOP senators may embrace during the closing debate, even as the president’s most toadying supporters echo the claim that he “did absolutely nothing wrong.”
As we have said, the Senate’s curtailment of the trial and refusal to seek potentially revelatory testimony and documents compel senators who would honor their oaths to vote for conviction. Still, Mr. Alexander’s position is worth considering. Is there a fair case to be made that Mr. Trump is guilty of wrongdoing but that removal is the wrong remedy?
Mr. Alexander’s argument is weakened by his failure to spell out exactly why Mr. Trump’s actions fall short of the constitutional standard of “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The president’s lawyers argued that the House did not prove that Mr. Trump committed a crime. But if impeachment were limited to violations of federal statues, Mr. Trump would be empowered to commit extraordinary abuses — say, helping Vladimir Putin restore Russian control over the Baltic states in exchange for help with his reelection — without check.
Mr. Alexander lacks a coherent response to the most pressing question arising from the impeachment case: If Mr. Trump is allowed to remain in office, will he take further improper action to sway the election? The senator’s answer, “I hope not,” is hardly reassuring, especially as Mr. Trump has admitted no wrongdoing. Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, continued to seek foreign help in smearing Mr. Biden even as impeachment unfolded.
The strongest argument offered by Republicans is that the Senate should allow voters to decide Mr. Trump’s fate. Striking him from the ballot, they say, would turbocharge the country’s divisions and leave many convinced that U.S. democracy had been subverted. We agree that’s a danger, but there’s also a solution for it: remove Mr. Trump, thereby guarding against further election interference, while allowing him on the ballot if the Republican Party renominates him.
The reality is that Republicans who acknowledge Mr. Trump’s guilt appear less interested in a remedy than in an excuse to vote for acquittal. They ought to be tested on whether they will stand behind their conclusion that the president’s behavior was wrong. Democrats should put forward a censure resolution saying that the extortion of Ukraine’s president was “inappropriate.” Then, Americans will see which GOP senators will still dare to speak truth to Mr. Trump.