Ketchikan Daily News: Murkowski speaks on impeachment

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski spoke with the Daily News on Thursday in Ketchikan about her pivotal role in last month's Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, calling it "a pretty ugly time in Washington."

Murkowski voted against calling new witnesses for the Senate trial and eventually voted to acquit President Trump on both articles of impeachment, though speaking on the Senate floor on Feb. 3 Murkowski called the president's behavior "shameful and wrong."

The Senate voted against hearing new witnesses 51-49, nearly along party lines. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah broke with their party to vote for new witnesses, but Murkowski, who had contemplated voting for new witnesses, ended up voting against the measure.

Murkowski voted with her party to acquit Trump of both articles of impeachment. The final vote was 53-47 to acquit on obstruction of justice and 52-48 to acquit on abuse of power. Romney voted to convict the president of abuse of power but not obstruction.

"Fouled from the get-go"

Murkowski said the impeachment process was "fouled from the get-go" by partisanship and rushed procedures in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"I thought it was pretty bad towards the end of the year when we were watching the House going through their process, and I was like, 'Oh, it's going to be better in the Senate because we're kind of the adults in the room,'" Murkowski said.

Instead, she said, "what was political from the beginning just became even more political" in the Senate.

Weighing whether to call more witnesses to the Senate, Murkowski said additional witnesses wouldn't have changed any minds.

"I'm a process person," Murkowski said." I always want more information. I had set it up to ask for more information. And yet what became so apparent was that more information was not going to make a difference for anybody. You looked at what was going on in the country and people were just so divided on this matter. Yes, they wanted more information, but they'd already made up their mind.

"It was almost as if ... we would basically say, 'Well, we'll ask for more information' just so that you can feel better that we've given you full process, knowing full well that it would never be enough for some, and it was way too much for the other half as well," Murkowski said.

"A constitutional no man's land"

Murkowski said she opposed the House impeachment team's request that U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts order new witnesses. Roberts was the presiding officer for the trial.

"The already-fouled Congress was going to drag the judiciary into what I have described as a constitutional no man's land," Murkowski said, "because what the house was asking the Senate to do and asking the chief justice to do was not something that the legislative body has the constitutional authority and the powers to do. They were basically asking us to waive the executive privileges and protections that the president has by virtue of article two (of the U.S. Constitution).

"It is not his constitutional power to make that ruling," she added. "That would allow then for executive privilege to be waived."

But the constitutionality of subpoenas from the chief justice was not conclusively decided during the Senate impeachment trial. Law scholars, politicians and prosecutors argued about the constitutionality of the proposed action intensely during the trial, but Roberts declined to subpoena new witnesses.

Murkowski continued: "And so I'm sitting here at the last minute thinking, you know, 'Where do we go with this? Is it better for the American people to think that we tried to have a fair process? Or is it better to just be honest with the fact that it was not going to be fair?'

"It was just not going to be fair," she concluded, "and we've messed things up badly enough because of the whole partisan nature of it that the last thing in the world we need to do is drag the judiciary into the partisan muck."

"We needed to go back to work"

Murkowski noted that the process for handling articles of impeachment in the Senate differs from how articles are processed in the House of Representatives.

"When the House was going through their process," Murkowski said, "they were passing bills every day. They were fully operational. When articles of impeachment come to the Senate, the Senate business stops. We didn't have any committee meetings.

"We had a few oversight hearings like on the coronavirus where we would be briefed by members of the administration coming in," she continued. "But then we'd sit on the Senate floor beginning at one o'clock and on most of those days we would be there until 10 o'clock with a half an hour break at dinner and a 15-minute break in the afternoon, and not doing things like an energy bill or a highway bill or the healthcare bill that we're working on."

That stop to regular Senate activities, Murkowski said, was something she considered during the proceedings.

"There was some common thread between people who do not like this president, and those that think he walks on water: People wanted us to do the job of governing," Murkowski said.

She added that the impeachment trial could push some things behind schedule.

"You've got a limited number of legislative days in any calendar and even fewer in a year when it's a presidential election," Murkowski said. "So ... yeah, probably we're going to have limited bandwidth this year."

By:  Sam Stockbridge
Source: Ketchikan Daily News