Speed Reads

Trump impeachment trial

Sen. Lamar Alexander's Democratic colleagues are 'disappointed' with his no-witnesses vote, see a silver lining

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced Thursday night that he will vote against calling new witnesses in President Trump's impeachment trial, but he also said Trump's actions were "inappropriate." His decision means there will likely be at most 50 votes for witnesses, and since few people think Chief Justice John Roberts would break a tie, Trump's trial is expected to come to a swift end.

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told CNN's Anderson Cooper he's "very disappointed" in Alexander's decision, though it appears the GOP senator "essentially said that the House case has been proven but it doesn't rise to the level of impeachment." Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) told CNN's Chris Cuomo that he's also "deeply disappointed" in Alexander's decision to allow "the first impeachment trial in history that has no witnesses at all, and it's hard to imagine that this is a fair trial under those circumstances." On the other hand, he said, it's "refreshing to hear somebody on the other side describe it as inappropriate."

Cooper's panel was less inclined to see the upside. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said Alexander's statement was "a little baffling," and "the only thing that's clear is that he's not voting for witnesses and that he thinks the president's behavior is inappropriate. ... But, I mean, let's be clear: This means that this trial was a sham. This trial was not a trial in any meaningful sense of the word."

John Dean, a central figure in the Watergate impeachment scandal, said this is "not a profile in courage by Lamar" on "the most significant vote he makes in his career." Former Republican National Committee chief of staff Mike Shields disagreed, saying it's a "huge" act of courage on Alexander's part because "he's going to get eviscerated by people like you." Columnist Kirsten Powers countered that his "statement is about not wanting to hear from the person that we kept hearing we needed to hear from, so it's not a real trial, and it's not a real exoneration," and Carl Bernstein chimed in to call it "a cover-up" by Senate Republicans. Watch below. Peter Weber