Murkowski says impeachment is about following process, will wait to decide on witnesses

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, during her speech outlining her opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Alaska’s U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is once again in the national spotlight as one of a handful of moderates who will have a big say in how the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump plays out.

With the House finally pledging to vote on transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate on Wednesday, attention has laser focused on the Senate’s moderate Republicans, four of whom would be needed to vote with Democrats in order to compel the testimony of witnesses like Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton.

But Murkowski and the other high-profiled Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah—say they want to hear the opening arguments of the trial before holding a vote on witnesses.

“You have the managers that present, you have the senators that question, and then we all have an opportunity to weigh in and say whether or not we need more information by way of witnesses, documentation (or) depositions,” Murkowski told Alaska Public Media’s Liz Ruskin. “Am I curious about what Ambassador Bolton would have to say? Yes, I am.”

Murkowski said, though, that it’d be too early to “pre-judge” the need to compel Bolton to testify until hearing the first phases of the trial.

But that doesn’t mean that Murkowski is sitting back ahead of the trial. According to a report by CNN, Murkwoski said she’s working to ensure that the Senate will have an opportunity to cast a vote on witnesses after the initial phases of the trial.

“I’ve been working to make sure that we will have a process so that we can take a vote on whether or not we need additional information, and yes that would include witnesses,” Murkowski said.

It’s unclear that the Senate will even reach that point. According to a roadmap put together by Politico based on the 1999 Clinton impeachment, the Senate could simply vote to dismiss the case at the end of the arguments and never even reach the question of whether witnesses or additional information is needed.

“Once senators finish questioning the lawyers, they have the option to file a slew of trial motions — including a motion to dismiss the case and a motion to subpoena witnesses,” explains the report. “The most pressing question at this stage: Will the Senate defeat the motion to dismiss the case against Trump the way it did against Clinton in 1999? It would likely take just three senators to reject a dismissal, deadlocking the Senate in a 50-50 tie. But if a motion to dismiss passes, the trial will end without a vote on witness testimony.”

As it explains, though, it would take just three senators to avoid dismissing the case at this point—Collins, Romney and Murkowski—but it would take a fourth to call for witnesses.

For now, Murkowski told Alaska Public Media that she wants to focus on a fair process for the trial.

“I don’t want to come in and have this daily jump ball,” she said. “It needs to be a structure that is understood in the Senate, that the public understands it. And the public believes it to be fair.”

Murkowski made headlines in December for an interview where she called Senate President Mitch McConnell’s pledge for “total coordination” between the White House and Senate, saying there was “zero chance” the president is removed from office.

At the time, Murkowski added that she wouldn’t be “acting as a rubber stamp for my party or my president” and would instead be focusing on looking “openly and critically at every issue in front of me.”

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