Murkowski’s statements on impeachment cut both ways

Sen. Lisa Murkowski spoke at a Dec. 20 luncheon at the Hotel Captain Cook. (Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is showing her independent streak as she discusses the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, but her statements in recent weeks cut both ways, for and against impeachment.

Most recently, she said she disagrees with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s pledge to hold the trial in “total coordination” with the White House.

“In fairness. When I heard that I was disturbed,” she told Anchorage television station KTUU, in comments that were carried by national media outlets.

But it would be a mistake to take that as an indication of how she’ll vote on the removal of the president from office. Murkowski has also criticized the process Democrats have employed. In a speech last week, Murkowski chided House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for holding on to the articles of impeachment rather than sending them to the Senate.

“So now you’ve got the speaker basically trying to use this as leverage to encourage us to perhaps adopt rules that she would like better than her rules. I don’t know,” Murkowski said in a speech last week to at the Hotel Captain Cook. “I don’t know, but I’m confused by that one, to be very honest with you. That doesn’t make sense.”

She also criticized House Democrats for not compelling administration witnesses they wanted to call.

“In fairness, if you seek that information, there is a way, there is a process to gain that, and that is through the subpoenas going to the courts,” she said.

That was in mid-December, days before the House vote on the articles of impeachment, but it could be read as critique of the obstruction-of-Congress charge the House approved. 

Related: Young votes no on presidential impeachment, and Alaska’s senators aren’t likely to vote against Trump, either

Murkowski’s criticism is not limited to process, either. She said, just before the House Judiciary Committee wrapped up its hearing, that she thought the House would have built a more substantial body of evidence. 

“You have a record that the House will base its articles on, that is perhaps not as full a record as it needs to be,” she said.

She has repeatedly said she’ll demand a process that is “full and fair.” For now, she says she’s staying neutral, in keeping with the oath she’ll make at the start of Senate trial.

“I will be asked to say, ‘I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.’ And that is what I’m going to do,” she said last week.

To remove the president, Democrats would need 20 Republican senators to cross the aisle, and so far, they don’t have any.

Where Murkowski’s independence is more likely to be a factor is in votes on whether to call witnesses. Democrats need only four Republicans to vote with them to prevail on votes about the rules.