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Alaska’s Republican senators split over whether to convict Trump in impeachment vote

  • Author: Morgan Krakow
  • Updated: February 14
  • Published February 13

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, arrives at the start of the fifth day of the second impeachment trial of former President Trump, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 at the Capitol in Washington. (Stefani Reynolds/Pool via AP)

Alaska’s two Republican senators split on their votes Saturday over whether to convict former President Donald Trump of inciting a violent riot that overtook the U.S. Capitol last month.

Alaska’s senior senator, Lisa Murkowski, voted along with six other Republicans to convict Trump on the charge of “incitement of insurrection.”

Ultimately, 57 senators voted to convict Trump while 43 senators voted that he was not guilty — a result that fell short of the two-thirds majority required for a conviction. The senators who voted to acquit the former president included Alaska’s other senator, Dan Sullivan, who said he condemned Trump’s “actions and inactions” in the wake of the Capitol uprising but believed impeachment was a process intended to remove someone from office, which no longer applied to Trump.

Throughout the impeachment trial, Murkowski was often cited nationally as a Republican senator who could potentially stray from her party in the final vote. Earlier this week, she voted to allow the trial to proceed in the Senate, alongside other moderate Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.

And two days after the Capitol uprising, Murkowski in an interview with the Daily News called on Trump to step down, saying, “I want him to resign. I want him out. He has caused enough damage.”

On Sunday, Murkowski’s office issued a statement from her explaining her vote.

“The facts make clear that the violence and desecration of the Capitol that we saw on January 6 was not a spontaneous uprising,” she said. “President Trump had set the stage months before the 2020 election by stating repeatedly that the election was rigged, casting doubt into the minds of the American people about the fairness of the election. After the election, when he lost by 7 million votes, he repeatedly claimed that the election was stolen and subjected to widespread fraud. At the same time, election challenges were filed in dozens of courts. Sixty-one different courts – including many judges nominated by President Trump himself – ruled against him...

“If months of lies, organizing a rally of supporters in an effort to thwart the work of Congress, encouraging a crowd to march on the Capitol, and then taking no meaningful action to stop the violence once it began is not worthy of impeachment, conviction, and disqualification from holding office in the United States, I cannot imagine what is.” she said. “By inciting the insurrection and violent events that culminated on January 6, President Trump’s actions and words were not protected free speech. I honor our constitutional rights and consider the freedom of speech as one of the most paramount freedoms, but that right does not extend to the President of the United States inciting violence.”

After the Senate voted to acquit Trump on Saturday, Politico reported that Murkowski — who is up for re-election in 2022 — said, “If I can’t say what I believe that our president should stand for, then why should I ask Alaskans to stand with me?”

“This was consequential on many levels, but I cannot allow the significance of my vote, to be devalued by whether or not I feel that this is helpful for my political ambitions,” she said, according to the news outlet.

Murkowski said that Congress certifying the election later the night of Jan. 6, after the Capitol riot upended proceedings, made her “soul happy.”

“We did it because we had some extraordinary men and women that were willing to stand up and defend and protect. And that was good,” she said, according to Politico. “I just wish that Donald Trump had been one of them.”

Murkowski’s office did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

In this May 7, 2020, file photo, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, testifies during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Al Drago/Pool via AP, File)

Sen. Sullivan, who won re-election in the November 2020 election, said in a statement Saturday that he voted to acquit the former president “as a result of an extensive review of the Constitution, historical precedent, and, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story said two centuries ago, ‘a deep responsibility to future times,’ ” citing his previous vote to acquit Trump during the first impeachment trial as well as his vote to certify the election last month.

“Make no mistake: I condemn the horrific violence that engulfed the Capitol on January 6. I also condemn former President Trump’s poor judgment in calling a rally on that day, and his actions and inactions when it turned into a riot. His blatant disregard for his own Vice President, Mike Pence, who was fulfilling his constitutional duty at the Capitol, infuriates me,” he said in the statement. “I will never forget the brave men and women of law enforcement — some of whom lost their lives and were seriously injured — who carried out their patriotic duty to protect members of Congress that day.”

Sullivan said he believed impeachment was a process meant to remove someone from office and that “pursuing impeachment in this case creates a troubling, unconstitutional precedent in which former officials — private citizens — can face impeachment and conviction.”

Hundreds of legal scholars argued in a letter this week that after the Senate voted to begin the impeachment trial, senators should instead make their decision on the case itself and “respect and honor that determination of the Senate as a body, even if they might have disagreed with it as an initial matter.” But Sullivan’s viewpoint was shared by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who condemned what he described as the former president’s “dereliction of duty” but said he voted to acquit Trump because he believes the Senate lacks jurisdiction over a former president and that impeachment is primarily a tool for removal from office.

While acknowledging that House impeachment managers showed an “emotional and wrenching presentation,” Sullivan said the managers went about the impeachment in a rushed manner.

“However horrible the violence was — and how angry I have been about it — I believe that it was imperative, for the future of our country and our democracy, to be as dispassionate and impartial about this vote as possible,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that “the vast majority” of Alaska’s Trump supporters were “appalled” by last month’s violence.

“They supported the former President because of his policies that helped our state,” he said. “I will continue to work to make sure that their voices are not silenced and that this dispiriting chapter in American history won’t deter them from speaking out in defense of their beliefs.”

• • •

Sen. Murkowski’s full statement:

“On January 13, when the U.S. House of Representatives impeached former President Donald J. Trump for a second time, I committed to upholding my oath as a U.S. Senator—to listen to each side impartially, review all the facts, and then decide how I would vote. I have done that and after listening to the trial this past week, I have reached the conclusion that President Trump’s actions were an impeachable offense and his course of conduct amounts to incitement of insurrection as set out in the Article of Impeachment.

“The facts make clear that the violence and desecration of the Capitol that we saw on January 6 was not a spontaneous uprising. President Trump had set the stage months before the 2020 election by stating repeatedly that the election was rigged, casting doubt into the minds of the American people about the fairness of the election. After the election, when he lost by 7 million votes, he repeatedly claimed that the election was stolen and subjected to widespread fraud. At the same time, election challenges were filed in dozens of courts. Sixty-one different courts – including many judges nominated by President Trump himself – ruled against him.

“President Trump did everything in his power to stay in power. When the court challenges failed, he turned up the pressure on state officials and his own Department of Justice. And when these efforts failed, he turned to his supporters. He urged his supporters to come to Washington, D.C. on January 6 to ‘Stop the Steal’ of an election that had not been stolen. The speech he gave on that day was intended to stoke passions in a crowd that the President had been rallying for months. They were prepared to march on the Capitol and he gave them explicit instructions to do so.

“When President Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol, breached both chambers of Congress, and interrupted the certification of Electoral College votes, he took no action for hours. The evidence presented at the trial was clear: President Trump was watching events unfold live, just as the entire country was. Even after the violence had started, as protestors chanted ‘Hang Mike Pence’ inside the Capitol, President Trump, aware of what was happening, tweeted that the Vice President had failed the country. Vice President Pence was attempting to fulfill his oath and his constitutional duty with the certification of Electoral College votes.

“After the storm had calmed, the President endorsed the actions of the mob by tweeting, ‘These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!’ This message, in defense of only himself, came nearly four hours after the attack on the Capitol began. President Trump allowing the violence to go on for hours without any clear directive or demand for peace – his intentional silence – cost Americans their lives. President Trump was not concerned about the Vice President; he was not concerned about members of Congress; he was not concerned about the Capitol Police. He was concerned about his election and retaining power. While I supported subpoenaing witnesses to help elucidate for the American people President Trump’s state of mind during the riot, both his actions and lack thereof establish that.

“If months of lies, organizing a rally of supporters in an effort to thwart the work of Congress, encouraging a crowd to march on the Capitol, and then taking no meaningful action to stop the violence once it began is not worthy of impeachment, conviction, and disqualification from holding office in the United States, I cannot imagine what is. By inciting the insurrection and violent events that culminated on January 6, President Trump’s actions and words were not protected free speech. I honor our constitutional rights and consider the freedom of speech as one of the most paramount freedoms, but that right does not extend to the President of the United States inciting violence.

“Before someone assumes the office of the presidency, they are required to swear to faithfully execute the office of the President and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. President Trump – the nation’s elected leader, the Commander in Chief of our armed forces – swore an oath to defend America and all that we hold sacred. He failed to uphold that oath.

“One positive outcome of the horrible events on January 6, was that hours after the Capitol was secured, on January 7, at 4:00 a.m., Congress fulfilled our responsibility to the U.S. Constitution and certified the Electoral College results. We were able to do that because of brave men and women who fulfilled their oath to protect and defend Congress. I regret that Donald Trump was not one of them.”

• • •

Sen. Sullivan’s full statement:

“I cast my vote today to acquit former President Trump on the single article of impeachment as a result of an extensive review of the Constitution, historical precedent, and, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story said two centuries ago, ‘a deep responsibility to future times’ — just as I did during last year’s impeachment trial and the Electoral College certification in January.

“The constitutional purpose of impeachment is to remove an official from office — and, in this case, that purpose had already been achieved. With their votes this past election, the American people spoke and chose a new President. Thus, pursuing impeachment in this case creates a troubling, unconstitutional precedent in which former officials — private citizens — can face impeachment and conviction. As I said during last year’s impeachment, the American people are well equipped to decide whether or not the former President should be disqualified from holding future office.

“I strongly believe the Senate does not have jurisdiction to try a former President who is now a private citizen. The Senate claiming that jurisdiction contradicts the intent of the Framers to the detriment of our constitutional order. Additionally, the House Managers provided the former President with no due process — and argued none was required — and side-stepped the First Amendment defense of his speech.

“Ultimately, in spite of an emotional and wrenching presentation, the House Managers failed to account for the repercussions of these new precedents and the way in which they went about this rushed, ‘snap’ impeachment. Combined with the power to try private citizens, all of this constitutes a massive expansion of Congress’ impeachment powers never contemplated by our Founders. The temptation to use such power as a regular tool of partisan warfare in the future will be great and has the potential to incapacitate our government.

“Make no mistake: I condemn the horrific violence that engulfed the Capitol on January 6. I also condemn former President Trump’s poor judgment in calling a rally on that day, and his actions and inactions when it turned into a riot. His blatant disregard for his own Vice President, Mike Pence, who was fulfilling his constitutional duty at the Capitol, infuriates me. I will never forget the brave men and women of law enforcement — some of whom lost their lives and were seriously injured — who carried out their patriotic duty to protect members of Congress that day.

“However horrible the violence was — and how angry I have been about it — I believe that it was imperative, for the future of our country and our democracy, to be as dispassionate and impartial about this vote as possible.

“The vast majority of Alaskans who supported President Trump were also appalled by the violence on January 6. They supported the former President because of his policies that helped our state. I will continue to work to make sure that their voices are not silenced and that this dispiriting chapter in American history won’t deter them from speaking out in defense of their beliefs.

“At the end of the day, my obligation is to rise above the passions of the moment and to carefully consider the decisions we make today and the ramifications they will have for our country’s future. I believe that my vote to acquit fulfills that obligation. I want Alaskans to know that throughout all of this, my guiding light has been both fidelity to my constituents and to our Constitution.”

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