Murkowski says Trump's actions 'shameful' but she'll vote to acquit

Murkowski, a moderate Republican, called some colleagues "hypocrites," while Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., called on Trump to be censured instead of removed.

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By Dareh Gregorian

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican from Alaska, said on the Senate floor Monday she'd vote to acquit President Donald Trump even though his actions were "shameful and wrong." On the other side of the aisle, Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, introduced a resolution to censure the president instead of removing him from office.

"The president's behavior was shameful and wrong," Murkowski said, while also slamming her colleagues in the Senate and the House. "His personal interests do not take precedence over those of this great nation. The president has the responsibility to uphold the integrity and the honor of the office not just for himself but for all future presidents. Degrading the office by actions or even name-calling weakens it for future presidents, and it weakens our country."

The House investigation into the president was rushed through, she said, while the Senate "should be ashamed by the rank partisanship on display here."

She called out colleagues who were present during President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial in 1999 and have staked out "the exact opposite stance" in the Trump trial. "That level of hypocrisy is astounding even for a place like Washington, D.C.," Murkowski said.

The senator said she voted against hearing from additional witnesses in the trial because it could have left the deciding vote up to Chief Justice John Roberts. "What started with political initiatives that degraded the office of the president and left the Congress wallowing in partisan mud (then) threatened to drag the last remaining branch of government down along with us," she said.

"We have failed," Murkowski continued. "The voters will pronounce a verdict in nine months."

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Removing the president from the ballot would have disenfranchised nearly 63 million Americans, she said, adding that "the House could have pursued censure, and not immediately jumped to the remedy of last resort," Murkowski said

A formal censure of the president could be a unifying way forward, Manchin said in his floor speech earlier.

"Censure would allow this body to unite across party lines and as an equal branch of government formally denounce the president's actions and hold him accountable. His behavior cannot go unchecked by the Senate," said Manchin, who's had a good relationship with Trump in the past.

Manchin, speaking on the Senate floor, said he hadn't decided how he'd vote on the two articles of impeachment against the president, but criticized Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy where he suggested Zelenskiy investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

"It was not a perfect call," Manchin said. "No one, no one, regardless of political party, should think that the president did and what he did was right. It was just simply wrong."

But, he added, Democrats have "no path" to the 67 votes needed to convict the president, and "removing this president at this time would not only further divide our deeply divided nation but also further poison our already-toxic political atmosphere."

Censure, Manchin said, "would allow a bipartisan statement condemning his unacceptable behavior in the strongest terms."

He introduced a resolution that reads in part, "The Senate does hereby censure Donald John Trump, President of the United States, and does condemn his wrongful conduct in the strongest terms; the Senate recognizes the historic gravity of this bipartisan resolution, and trusts and urges that future Congresses will recognize the importance of allowing this statement of censure and condemnation to remain intact for all time."

But the next speaker, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., made clear she did not believe the president did anything wrong and chided the House for what she called its "intentional mishandling" of its investigation.

She said it was unfair for the House to think the Senate would "indulge this unseemly behavior."

The senators took to the floor following closing arguments earlier in the day from the House managers and lawyers for the White House arguing for and against his removal on charges of abusing his power and obstructing Congress. A vote on the articles of impeachment is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he'd vote to acquit because he didn't think the conduct Trump is charged with is impeachable. "A president is not prohibited by law from engaging the assistance of a foreign ally in an anti-corruption investigation," he said. As for the second article of impeachment, obstruction of Congress, Grassley said it's "patently frivolous" because the House should have fought harder to get records from the White House.

"The House may cower at defending its own authority, but the Senate shouldn't have to clean up the mess of the House's own making," Grassley said.

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Another Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, also announced he'd vote to acquit the president, and said it would "be the most important of my career."

Inhofe, who voted to remove Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1999, said the two cases were very different. Clinton admitted to lying under oath and apologized for it, while Trump has denied any wrongdoing, he noted. He also complained the witnesses who testified before the House were "all hearsay" and hadn't had direct conversations with the president about his decision to withhold aid against Ukraine.

Inhofe was one of 51 Republicans who voted against calling additional witnesses.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., also said she'd vote to acquit. "How did this case even make it to the Senate?" she said. "Georgians aren't losing sleep over a call the president made."

A number of Democratic senators said they would vote to convict the president on the existing record, but vented their anger that there wasn't more testimony.

Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii said proceedings in the Senate were "an affront to the basic idea of a trial."

"It was a cover-up," Schatz said. "They're afraid of this house of cards falling all the way down."

Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall of New Mexico, Patty Murray of Washington, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Ben Cardin of Maryland also said they'd vote to convict.