WASHINGTON, DC — Swing-vote lawmaker Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on Monday evening said she would vote to acquit U.S. President Donald Trump in the Senate impeachment trial, further cementing the commander-in-chief’s looming exoneration on Wednesday.
Murkowski noted that she is unable to convict Trump of the two articles of impeachment approved along party lines by a Democrat majority in the House last month — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
“I cannot vote to convict. The Constitution provides for impeachment but does not demand it in all instances,” Murkowski declared from the Senate floor, adding that Trump’s removal would amount to “the political death penalty.”
Murkowski, described by the Hill as “the first of a small group of potential swing-vote senators to announce her decision ahead of Wednesday’s expected final vote,” did condemn Trump’s behavior at the heart of the Democrats’ impeachment effort as “shameful and wrong.”
“The president’s behavior was shameful and wrong. His personal interests do not take precedence over those of this great nation,” she proclaimed.
Murkowski, however, said it should be the voters who decide the fate of the Trump presidency in the upcoming presidential elections in November, noting that the printing of the ballots is already in progress.
The Iowa caucus, the nation’s first contest in the presidential elections, took place Monday and will soon be followed by the first-in-the country primary in New Hampshire on February 11.
During her Senate floor speech, Murkowski explained why she will vote to acquit the president, saying, “The voters will pronounce a verdict in nine months, and we must trust their judgement.”
“The response to the president’s behavior is not to disenfranchise nearly 63 million Americans and remove him from the ballot,” she added. “The House could have pursued censure [a motion to strongly condemn Trump’s behavior] and not immediately jumped to the remedy of last resort.”
In contrast, the Democrats have been pushing for depriving voters of a say on Trump’s fate, arguing that the upcoming election would only allow for the sitting president to cheat.
According to the Hill, reporters questioned Murkowski after her speech on whether she thought the House had proved its case against Trump.
“It is very clear [Trump] said the things that he said. That to me, is apparent. But I do believe that you also have the recognition that the president was concerned about issues of burden sharing,” Murkowski responded.
“I believe that aid was withheld, and I think that based on what we heard. Clearly, a factor in that was the president was looking for a certain action from President Zelensky as it related to [Joe Biden and his son Hunter]. Yes, I believe that,” the Republican senator added.
The House Democrats’ case stems primarily from a “whistleblower” complaint that Trump delayed U.S. aid to coerce the Ukrainian president to investigate corruption allegations against the Bidens and potential 2016 U.S. presidential election interference.
A July 25 call between Zelensky and Trump during which the president asked the Eastern European leader to look into the investigations was at the heart of the impeachment probe, ultimately triggered by the “whistleblower” complaint.
Trump and Zelensky, however, have denied the “whistleblower’s” allegations. The Trump administration also released the frozen U.S. aid without Ukraine having to lift a finger in return.
Murkowski expressed frustration over the House and Senate’s handling of the impeachment effort while briefing reporters after her speech.
Although the Republican senator has broken with her party on crucial votes, she joined her GOP counterparts last week on defeating a vital vote for allowing new witnesses in the Senate’s impeachment trial that cleared the way for Trump’s exoneration Wednesday.
Murkowski’s speech wrapped up Monday’s Senate workday. It came after the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already set the agenda for the following day, a move that usually signals the end of the day’s session.
On Tuesday, senators will continue to give speeches about their decisions to support the acquittal or conviction of Trump. The final vote is Wednesday at 4 p.m.