Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said Tuesday she was "disturbed" that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would engage in "total coordination" with the White House regarding the upcoming Senate trial of President Donald Trump.
In an interview with Anchorage's local NBC affiliate KTUU broadcast Tuesday, Murkowski — who earlier in the year refused to defend Trump from the Democrats' impeachment inquiry — said McConnell's comments "has further confused" the impeachment process.
Her remarks suggest that there is at least a degree of dissension with the Republican Senate ranks as the chamber prepares to embark on a trial of Trump in 2020, following his impeachment in the House last week on two articles, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
"When I heard that, I was disturbed," Murkowski told KTUU, in reference to McConnell’s comments earlier this month that there would be "total coordination" on a Senate trial of Trump among him and other Senate Republicans and the White House and Trump's legal defense team.
Murkowski said that when it came to a Senate trial of the president, she’d prefer to see space between the White House and the Senate.
"To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process," she said.
Murkowski added that "how we will deal with witnesses remains to be seen." McConnell has yet to put forth the rules of the trial and has not said whether witnesses will be called.
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Murkowski hasn't been reluctant to buck her party and is seen as one of just a few Republican senators who could possibly break from the GOP on a Senate vote to convict Trump, although a conviction, which requires a two-thirds majority, is very unlikely.
She voted against the Senate's Trump-backed effort to repeal Obamacare in 2017, but later came out in support of repealing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. She also voted against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. And Murkowski refused to sign a GOP-backed resolution denouncing the House Democrats' fast-moving impeachment inquiry back in October.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has yet to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate. And McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are stuck at an impasse over moving forward with the rules governing a Senate trial.
But when the Senate trial of Trump does eventually kick off, McConnell would need a simple majority of senators to pass matters of process and procedure for the trial (including whether witnesses can be called).
McConnell has said he wants the Senate to conform to the precedent set in 1999, during the Senate trial of then-President Bill Clinton, following his own impeachment. Back then, there was a two-resolution process: An initial agreement to first hear the prosecution and then the defense arguments, and a vote, later on, on whether to have witnesses or not. Schumer has pushed for a single resolution that would set the parameters for the opening arguments and that would also allow for the calling of witnesses in the Senate trial of Trump.
Murkowski indicated she’d prefer to see a “full and fair process” that possibly uses the Clinton precedent as a model.
But she would not say how she plans to vote on the question of conviction.
"For me to prejudge and say there's nothing there or, on the other hand, he should be impeached yesterday, that's wrong, in my view, that’s wrong," Murkowski said.