Murkowski confirms she’ll vote no on witnesses in impeachment trial

Sen. Lisa Murkowski at a press conference in July. Photo by Liz Ruskin.

UPDATE: In a vote Friday, the motion consider witnesses failed, 49-51. Sens. Susan Collins and Mitt Romney were the only Republicans to join the Democratic effort.

Washington, D.C. — Sen. Lisa Murkowski announced Friday that she will vote against calling witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump, almost certainly ending Democratic hopes to extend testimony.

“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate,” she said in a written statement. “I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.”

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Maine Republican Susan Collins has said she will support a limited number of witnesses, and Mitt Romney, of Utah, has signaled that he would like to hear from at least former national security adviser John Bolton. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., another key swing vote, announced Thursday he would not vote for more testimony.

Read Murkowski’s statement.

Murkowski says her decision was partly based on a wish to protect the stature of the judicial branch.

Related: Reporter’s notebook: Tracking the inscrutable Lisa Murkowski

“It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice,” her statement says. “I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked a question Thursday night that questioned the “legitimacy” of Chief Justice John Roberts for presiding over trial that lacked witnesses.

Had Murkowski decided to vote for witnesses, it would have raised the possibility of a 50-50 tie. The chief justice might then have been called on to break the tie.

Murkowski, one of the few moderate Republicans in the Senate, has been characteristically hard to read this week, garnering intense media interest, with questions for impeachment lawyers that could be read as both supporting and undermining the arguments for calling witnesses.

Sen. Dan Sullivan declined to answer an Alaska Public Media reporter’s questions about impeachment.

“Out of respect for my constituents,” he said, he’s decided not to respond “to the incessant media inquiries for the last two and a half weeks, until we hear all sides. So I’m going to continue to do that.”

This is a breaking story, check back for updates.

Julia O’Malley in Anchorage contributed to this story.