Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of six Republicans to vote to proceed with the impeachment of former President Donald Trump over his incitement of a violent mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol a month ago. U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan voted against proceeding.
In a statement following her vote, Murkowski said Tuesday’s vote wasn’t specifically about Trump but over the question of whether a president could be impeached after they left office. She said failing to uphold Congress’ powers would leave the body “toothless.”
“If a civil officer could escape any punishment simply by resigning office, the impeachment power would be rendered toothless,” she said. “If the end of a President’s term meant he or she would never be held politically liable for high crimes or misdemeanors committed while in office, the lame-duck period would pose a serious danger to the stability of the country.”
Her statement referenced much of the historical context of post-office convictions, including the 1876 impeachment of Grant’s Secretary of War, William Belknap.
“When combined with the tradition of ‘late impeachments’ in England and the precedent established in 1876 during the Belknap trial, I am convinced that this body retains jurisdiction over former officials. The majority of constitutional scholars who have considered this question agree with this position,” she said. “Moreover, the Senate should want to retain that authority. The American people should also want it to do so.”
Murkowski has long been skeptical of Trump’s place in the Republican Party and played key roles in stymying some of his legislative efforts. She’s said she’s uncertain of her future in the Republican Party if it becomes the party of Trump, a position she reiterated in an interview with CNN.
“I think we’re in a place where Donald Trump is gone — and in terms of his role in party, that has yet to be determined,” she said. “But I have not embraced the party of Donald Trump. I’m looking for the Republican Party.”
Tuesday marked the opening of the impeachment in the Senate. It featured what was widely regarded as an effective opening salvo by House impeachment managers with a widely derided performance by Trump’s attorneys. Along with the rest of the world, Murkowski joined in on criticizing the meandering opening arguments Trump attorney Bruce Castor.
“In fairness, I was really stunned at the first attorney who presented for former President Trump,” Murkowski told Alaska Public Media. “I couldn’t figure out where he was going. (He) spent 45 minutes going somewhere, but I don’t think he helped with us better understanding where he was coming from on the constitutionality of this.”