Basic fairness for President Donald Trump’s Senate impeachment trial lost again this Friday when Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski (R) announced that she would be voting against calling any witnesses. She had been the last swing vote Republican Senator without a publicly confirmed decision, but now that she’s made her announcement, the final vote seems set to be 51 against witnesses an 49 for them. In her statement explaining her decision, Murkowski both criticized House impeachment investigators for supposedly rushing their case and jabbed at her Senate colleagues for supposedly using the chamber to air partisan grievances.
After claiming that “the House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed,” she continued:
‘I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena… 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. 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.’
That’s a pretty blunt assessment! She’s flatly misrepresenting the facts of the House’s case. Although some on the president’s side have argued that the House was inappropriate in including charges in their articles of impeachment that don’t correspond to federally delineated, “official” crimes, the Constitution leaves the question of what impeachment-worthy behavior is open. Trump’s defenders arguments that there must be a “crime” are outlandish — as is, the federal criminal code didn’t even exist when the impeachment procedure was established.
In her statement, Murkowski also included barely veiled criticism of colleague Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who submitted a question during the trial’s question-and-answer session pointedly asking whether the Supreme Court (or its chief justice, who’s been presiding over the proceedings) should be considered compromised by the lack of a fair trial. Murkowski — who has already criticized Democrats’ in-trial behavior once, when she claimed that Jerry Nadler’s accusation of a GOP cover-up was insulting — insisted:
‘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.’
So, she’s attempting to have it both ways — she’s acknowledging at least some issues, and then metaphorically throwing up her hands and sticking with the main GOP party line on the issue.
The other swing vote Senator who turned out against calling witnesses is Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander (R), who is retiring at the end of his current term. Meanwhile, Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Susan Collins (Maine) indicated that they’d vote for calling witnesses — but two GOP defectors are not enough to establish a pro-witness majority in the Senate.
Alexander justified his decision in part by claiming that Trump’s scheme to bribe Ukraine into investigating his opponents was inappropriate but not worthy of impeachment. So what is worthy of impeachment for these people, then? Trump’s claim that he could shoot someone and not lose voters seems more and more accurate.