And then there were … fifty-two? CBS News reports that Senate moderate Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) might have signaled that she will peel away from the GOP caucus when it comes to a rules fight over an impeachment trial. Their report focuses on a comment Murkowski made in a KTUU interview that she was “disturbed” by Mitch McConnell’s pledge to coordinate strategy with the White House — but CBS also left out a few other issues that disturb Murkowski:
Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, said she was disturbed to hear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say there would be “total coordination” between the White House and Senate over the upcoming presidential impeachment trial.
“And in fairness, when I heard that I was disturbed,” Murkowski told Anchorage television station KTUU Tuesday before saying there should be distance between the White House and Senate in how the trial is conducted.
“To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand-in-glove with the defense, and so (when) I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process.”
KTUU’s report on their Christmas Eve interview also headlined Murkowski’s comments about McConnell, but unlike CBS, they also included her criticism of other Capitol Hill leaders. Murkowski also threw cold water on Chuck Schumer’s strategy to demand witnesses to fix what Nancy Pelosi rushed through the House. “If the House truly believed they had information that was going to be important,” Murkowski says of Schumer’s witness list, “they subpoena them. And if they ignore the subpoena, as they did at the direction of the White House,” Murkowski continued, “then that next step is to go to the courts.”
So why didn’t Pelosi instruct Adam Schiff to do that? Murkowski has some thoughts on that, too:
Murkowski was critical of the impeachment process conducted in the House of Representatives that she describes as rushed. “Speaker Pelosi was very clear, very direct that her goal was to get this done before Christmas.”
She says the Senate is now being asked to cure deficiencies in the evidence that will be presented at the trial, particularly when it comes to whether key witnesses should be brought forward to testify including White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton.
“How we will deal with witnesses remains to be seen,” Murkowski said before describing that the House should have gone to the courts if witnesses refused to appear before Congress.
On balance, Murkowski appears to be deploying the Elissa Slotnick/Doug Jones PR strategy, only from the other side. She wants to appear to be independent of her party’s leadership — no real stretch for Murkowski anyway — and retain her credibility as an “impartial” juror for when the votes take place. She can do that pretty easily by dinging McConnell for his comments about coordination (although Tom Daschle eventually admitted his staff did the same thing with Bill Clinton’s White House in 1999’s impeachment trial).
The context which the CBS report omits is that Murkowski isn’t buying Schumer’s demand for witnesses at this trial, either. She is also “disturbed” by the defective impeachment they’re being asked to try, too. That doesn’t sound like a waverer; it sounds like someone who’s trying to set up her party-line vote as an independent choice, just as Jones and Slotnick did. With fellow moderate Mitt Romney essentially providing McConnell the 51st vote for any rules decision, a rebellion by Murkowski would be pointless anyway, especially in front of constituents in a state Donald Trump won by 15 points in 2016.
Why CBS chose to leave that out of their report is … actually not very difficult to figure out. At least KTUU provided their readers and viewers with a more complete picture of Murkowski’s pox-on-all-houses comments, from which they can draw a more informed conclusion about what Murkowski might do next week.