(CNSNews.com) – Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) decision to vote against allowing witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial despite Alexander saying “it was inappropriate” for Trump to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political opponent and withhold U.S. aid to encourage that investigation is akin to “jury nullification,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told CNN on Friday.
In an interview with “CNN Newsroom,” Blumenthal said that if Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) votes in favor of having witnesses at the Senate impeachment trial, “the likelihood is slim” that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts will break a tie.
Since the interview aired, Murkowski announced she will vote against having witnesses, which means Senate Republicans have the votes to block the motion on including witnesses.
“You heard Senator Lamar Alexander, your Republican colleague, last night make a really remarkable argument. He said in his words - I'm not paraphrasing here - that the Democrats proved their case, that the president applied this pressure on Ukraine for a political favor and that it's inappropriate, but not impeachable. What's your response to that argument?” CNN’s Jim Sciutto asked.
“You know, as a prosecutor and trial lawyer, I feel a little bit like it's jury nullification where the jury concludes the crime was done, but it decides to in effect disregard the law. Lamar Alexander is saying that the proper legal result in effect is a guilty verdict, but the election upcoming will potentially produce the same thing. It's for the American people to decide,” Blumenthal said.
“What most disappoints me is that he's deciding against further evidence, more witnesses and documents, first-hand direct knowledge, people who were in the room with the president of the United States like John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. John Bolton said it was a drug deal. Mick Mulvaney said it was a quid pro quo, and the American people deserve to hear that kind of truth-telling,” he said.
“The day after Robert Mueller testified on the hill and gave what the president and many Republicans viewed as sort of a free pass there or didn't have the impact as expected, the president had this phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky. The day after his likely acquittal in the senate, do you -- are you concerned that the president would be emboldened to do this again, to seek, accept or even apply pressure for foreign help in the election?” Sciutto asked.
“I think that is a really key question, Jim. In my view is the danger going forward is that the guard rails will be removed. The president now feels in effect legally unleashed. He has said before, Article 2 gives him the power to ‘do anything I want,’ a quote, and now he will in effect be, he thinks, vindicated. In fact, this trial is no vindication, because it was really no trial, no witnesses, no documents, no real evidence,” Blumenthal said.
“Although the case is overwhelming that he corruptly abused his trust for his personal gain. He may well feel vindicated, and he's already said he can obstruct justice, he can impound funds, disregard Congress, stonewall oversight and potentially even obstruct justice along with other disregard for the law, and America really is an ideal for other countries,” the senator said.
“I think that point has been made vividly and powerfully in this trial, and I fear very much that the president will see himself as a buddy of autocrats around the world, as one who can emulate that kind of monarchial power,” he said.
“I think that the American people are going to react very badly to this result,” Blumenthal said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “has made a short-term political calculation.”
“There’ll be a long-term cost, and it will be a political cost but also sadly, and unfortunately, a cost to the legacies of the folks who denied the American people a full, fair proceeding,” Blumenthal said.