Sen. Lisa Murkowski was among six Senate Republicans who broke party ranks to vote with all 50 Democrats in affirming the legality of proceeding with an impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
The 56-44 vote came Feb. 9, after a four-hour debate over whether it is even constitutional for Congress to impeach a president who has already left office and is living as a private citizen. Trump’s team argued that the trial creates a dangerous precedent in which anyone who has ever held civic office could be impeached by a future Congress aiming to undermine their work after they have left public life.
Murkowski attempted to frame her decision to vote with all Senate Democrats as having nothing to do with President Trump.
Murkowski, however, echoed the words of impeachment manager, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) who claimed that halting the trial simply because Trump was out of office creates a “January exception” that would allow future presidents to commit crimes in the last weeks of their term without having to worry about being barred from holding future office, which is one of the consequences of an impeachment conviction.
“If the end of a President’s term meant he or she would never be held politically liable for high crimes or misdemeanors committed while in office, the lame-duck period would pose a serious danger to the stability of the country,” Murkowski stated.
Trump’s attorneys called fears about a so-called “January exception” nonsense.
“If my colleagues on this side of the chamber actually think that President Trump committed a criminal offense … after he’s out of office, you go and arrest him,” said Bruce Castor, one of Trump’s impeachment trial attorneys. “So, there is no opportunity where the president of the United States can run rampant in January at the end of his term and just go away scot-free. The Department of Justice does know what to do with such people.”
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Murkowski statement attempted to frame her vote with Senate Democrats as having nothing to do with President Trump who is the direct subject of the impeachment trial. Murkowski framed her vote as a principled stand that was necessary to defend the Senate’s power to check former presidents, whomever they may be.
“The vote today was not about President Trump,” she asserted. “It was about the Senate retaining jurisdiction to try a former official who was impeached while in office for acts done while in office. The Senate should not be so quick to forever give away its power to take corrective actions that may, at some point, be necessary.”
The other five Republicans who broke ranks and joined Democrats on the impeachment question were Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Mitt Romney of Utah, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
The impeachment trial resumes Wednesday, Feb. 10, with each side getting 16 hours to argue whether Trump should be convicted on charges of inciting the protesters who stormed the nation’s Capitol Building on Jan. 6. The trial will be broadcast live on C-SPAN beginning at 7:55 a.m. Alaska time.