Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is breaking with her party’s leadership and line once again–this time on the matter of impeachment.
According to local NBC affiliate KTUU, Murkowski recently expressed dismay at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s vow to act in “total coordination” with the White House during the eventual impeachment trial in the Senate.
“And in fairness, when I heard that I was disturbed,” Murkowski said–explaining that she believed there should be a healthy amount of daylight between the White House and the juror-like senators who will decided the 45th president’s fate during that trial.
To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process.
“How we will deal with witnesses remains to be seen,” Murkowski added, lending credence to Democratic Party desires for a process inclusive of witnesses for and against President Donald Trump. McConnell, so far, has yet to publicly agree to any particular form or format–or even to having witnesses appear on either side.
In terms of such potential specifics, Murkowski said she supported a “full and fair process,” that could be modeled on the impeachment trial of former president Bill Clinton in early 1999.
Murkowski herself was not yet a senator at the time. Her father, Frank Murkowski was in the Senate during the nation’s last impeachment trial. He voted guilty on the two articles of impeachment filed against Clinton. (The younger Murkowski all-but inherited her position in the Senate from her father after being appointed by him to his old seat after he quit the deliberative body to serve as governor of Alaska in 2002.)
Former federal prosecutor Alex Little said Murkowski’s public break with McConnell could portend out dire consequences for the Kentucky senator’s cause behind closed doors.
“I think there are three main people in the Senate that McConnell needs to look out for,” he told CNN on Christmas Day. “I think Murkowski, [Mitt] Romney and [Susan] Collins who may take that tactic and may say, ‘listen, we care about the procedure, the institutional interests of the Senate.’”
Those Maine and Utah Republican senators are often misrepresented in the media as being moderate voices in the GOP–but have consistently sided with the Trump administration on policy and have yet to voice any concerns with the process previewed by McConnell. Murkowski, however, has actually taken a non-rhetorical stand. She spiritedly sided against Trump and the broader conservative movement by refusing to support Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh‘s confirmation to the nation’s high court.
And I think one of the things of inviting in those House managers from the Republican side in Trump’s defense, if it really does become a partisan slugfest, I think they have a chance to lose more Republican senators. This is an interesting impeachment trial. Unlike the Clinton impeachment, the grounds for impeachment against the president are really substantial in a very different way and I think some Republican senators who deeply — if they could, there’s reports if this was done behind closed doors about the vote you’d see 30 Republicans vote to impeach the president. There are some real danger zones for the president and the Senate majority leader.
But when it comes to Trump’s guilt or innocence, Murkowski says she hasn’t quite decided.
“For me to prejudge and say there’s nothing there or on the other hand, he should be impeached yesterday, that’s wrong, in my view, that’s wrong,” she said.
But her ire for partisan theatrics and desire for the semblance of due process was not limited to her own party. Murkowski also savaged the expedited process in the U.S. House of Representatives–which investigated and impeached Trump with a haste that many commentators and critics on both sides of the aisle have suggested did not meet the gravity of the historic situation at hand.
“Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi was very clear, very direct that her goal was to get this done before Christmas,” Murkowski said dismissively.
[image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]