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Murkowski votes against calling witnesses in Senate impeachment trial

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, talks with reporters as in the basement of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, while leaving at the end of a session in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Friday joined fellow Republicans in voting down a call for witnesses in the Senate trial of President Donald Trump, saying the House failed to properly do its job before it brought impeachment charges to the Senate.

The Senate voted 51-49 against the motion, dashing hopes by Democrats that a group of Republicans, including Murkowski, would support their call to hear from witnesses such as former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Alaska’s other Republican senator, Dan Sullivan, joined Murkowski in voting against calling witnesses. Sullivan also had objected to the House process and was not considered a swing vote on the issue. Only two Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah, joined the Democrats in voting to call witnesses.

Murkowski described her thinking in a statement released before the vote early Friday.

“The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed," Murkowski said. “I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena."

Murkowski said she worked “for a fair, honest, and transparent process” in the Senate.

On Thursday, she had asked why Trump’s legal team should not subpoena Bolton.

She said a news report of an unpublished manuscript written by Bolton appears to be in conflict with White House lawyers who presented evidence that the president was not engaged in a quid pro quo when financial aid to Ukraine was frozen. The New York Times reported recently that according to details of the manuscript, Trump told Bolton that $391 million in aid would remain frozen until Ukraine helped with investigations including into his Democratic rival, former vice president Joe Biden. Trump denied the allegations.

White House lawyer Patrick Philbin answered Murkowski by saying the House should have called on Bolton to testify.

For the Senate to subpoena Bolton over an alleged comment in a draft book would set a bad precedent for future impeachment trials, with a message that the House can deliver a “half-baked," incomplete investigation for the Senate to finish, Philbin said.

“That’s very damaging for the future of this institution,” Philbin said.

Murkowski’s statement Friday spoke to those concerns. Here is her full statement:

“I worked for a fair, honest, and transparent process, modeled after the Clinton trial, to provide ample time for both sides to present their cases, ask thoughtful questions, and determine whether we need more.

“The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena.

“Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.

“It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice. I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.

“We are sadly at a low point of division in this country.”

In a statement Friday, Sullivan called the House proceedings rushed and partisan, saying they “lacked the most basic due process and fairness procedures” afforded past presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

"A vote by the Senate to pursue additional evidence that the House consciously chose not to obtain would incentivize less thorough, and more frequent, partisan impeachments in the future — a danger that should concern all Alaskans, regardless of political party,” Sullivan said.

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