Murkowski "disturbed" by “total coordination” between McConnell and White House on impeachment

“I happened to think that that has further confused the process”

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 26, 2019 1:10PM (EST)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said she is “disturbed” by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that he will coordinate the impeachment of President Donald Trump with the White House.

"And in fairness, when I heard that, I was disturbed," Murkowski told KTUU in the interview, which aired on Christmas.

She later added, "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.”

Murkowski was referring to remarks made by McConnell earlier this month, in which he said that there would be “total coordination” between the White House and Senate Republicans in Trump’s impeachment trial. He elaborated by saying that “there will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this” and justified his statement by arguing that the case against Trump “is so darn weak.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, also told “Face the Nation” earlier this month that “I'm not trying to pretend to be a fair juror here. What I see coming, happening today is just partisan nonsense."

Laurence Tribe, a Harvard law professor who suggested that House Democrats refuse to submit articles of impeachment to the Senate until there is a guarantee of a fair trial (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed refused to submit the articles), told Salon earlier this month that the Senate’s position undermined the spirit of the Constitution.

“Imagine this scenario: A prosecutor about to obtain a grand jury indictment learns that the foreman of the trial jury (whose members, for purposes of this thought experiment, we’ll have to assume are known in advance, as is the case with the Senate though not in the typical criminal case) has threatened to let the accused decide how the trial will be conducted — and has intimated that it will be a ‘trial’ in name only, one orchestrated in close coordination with defense counsel,” Tribe said. “Other key jurors also announce that they don’t intend to listen to any evidence but have already made up their minds to acquit.” He concluded that “in the world of impeachment trials, it’s unrealistic to imagine that the presiding judge, here the Chief Justice of the United States, would grant any such motion.”

Trump became the third president in American history to be impeached last week, following Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. A fourth president, Richard Nixion, faced near-certain impeachment in 1974 but resigned before that could happen. The articles of impeachment against Trump accuse him of “corruptly solicit[ing] the government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden and a “discredited theory” that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election to help former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. The second article discusses the measures that Trump has undertaken to thwart the impeachment inquiry into him.

For a president to be impeached, a majority in the House of Representatives has to vote for a trial to occur in the Senate. For that same president to be convicted in the Senate, a two-thirds majority of the senators present (or 67 votes) needs to support conviction. There are currently 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two independents in the Senate.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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