During her speech, Murkowski condemned the House for what she said was a rush through the impeachment process, while also criticizing her Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle for failing to approach the impeachment trial with an open mind. She lambasted the media for what she called “careless coverage” when Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not immediately send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate after they passed in the House.
Murkowski added that the House could have pursued censure and did not have to jump to impeach.
“I cannot vote to convict,” she said. “The Constitution provides for impeachment but does not demand it in all instances.”
Similar to her Republican colleague Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Murkowski said it would ultimately be up to the voters to offer the final verdict on Trump’s behavior in November.
She also called on Congress to do more to stop the legislative branch from ceding authority to the executive.
“This process has been the apotheosis of the problem of congressional abdication,” Murkowski said. “Through the refusal to exercise war powers, or relinquishing the power of the purse, selective oversight and unwillingness to check emergency declarations designed to skirt Congress — we have failed.”
Murkowski was viewed as a key swing vote during the Senate impeachment trial, particularly when it came to hearing from witnesses. She ultimately voted against it, concluding that there would be no fair trial in the Senate. The Senate is scheduled to render its verdict at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Murkowski said after her floor speech on Monday that her decision not to hear from witnesses was based on several factors, but noted that a question from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) about whether the chief justice’s role in the impeachment proceedings contributed to the loss of legitimacy of the court played a role.
“It absolutely took it to a different dimension when you have the suggestion that the courts should somehow be … complicit and in a proceeding where the Supreme Court decides that he is not going to rule,” Murkowski said of the president. “All of a sudden … political fireworks in my head went off.”
In explaining his vote against witnesses, Alexander said the House proved its case that Trump pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the Biden family. Murkowski said on Monday that she, too, believed that U.S. military aid was withheld at least in part because Trump wanted the Bidens investigated.
“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 the Bidens,” she said. “I believe that.”