In a lengthy Senate floor speech Monday evening, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski defended her decision last week to vote against calling additional witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, accusing Congress of an "apparent willingness to destroy not just each other, but all of the institutions of our government."
"I was part of a small group that worked to secure a fair and honest and transparent structure for the trial, and we based it on how this chamber handled the trial of President Clinton some 20 years ago," Murkowski said. "The structure we built should have been sufficient, but the foundation upon which it rested was rotted."
Murkowski was unsparing in her criticism of all entities involved in the process.
"The House rushed through what should have been one of the most serious, consequential undertakings of the legislative branch simply to meet an artificial self-imposed deadline," Murkowski said. "Prior presidential impeachments resulted from years of investigation where subpoenas were issued and they were litigated, where there were massive amounts of documents that were produced and witnesses deposed, where resistance from the executive was overcome through court proceedings and through accommodations. The House failed in its responsibilities."
The senator disparaged the president's conduct as well but fell short of calling his actions impeachable as some of her colleagues had.
"The president’s behavior was shameful and wrong. His personal interests do not take precedence over those of this great nation," Murkowski said. "The president has a responsibility to uphold the integrity and the honor of the office not just for himself but for all future presidents. Degrading the office by actions or even name-calling weakens it for future presidents, and it weakens our country."
Murkowski's own legislative body was granted no pardon in the nearly 11-minute denunciation.
"The Senate should be ashamed by the rank partisanship that has been on display here. For all the talk of impartiality, it is clear to me that few in this chamber approached this with a genuinely open mind. Some, some have been calling for the president to be impeached for years. Indeed, we saw just today clips that indicate headlines 19 minutes after the president was sworn into office calling for his impeachment," Murkowski said. "Others in this chamber saw little need to even consider the arguments from the House before stating their intentions to acquit.
“Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve all seen the videos from 20 years ago where members who were present during the Clinton trial took the exact opposite stance than they take today. That level of hypocrisy is astounding even for a place like Washington, D.C."
Previous Senate coordination with the president's office found a place in the senator's extensive criticisms, as well.
“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 an unwillingness to check emergency declarations designed to skirt Congress – we have failed time and time again. We cannot continue to cede authority to the executive."
In a final justification of her decision to vote against the calling of additional witnesses, Murkowski cited an effort to keep the Supreme Court out of the muck.
“What started with political initiatives that degraded the office of the president and left the Congress wallowing in partisan mud, threatened to drag the last remaining branch down along with us," Murkowski said.
The Senate will convene Wednesday for a final vote on the House article of impeachment, an action which Murkowski noted in her speech she won't support.
"I cannot vote to convict," she said, before yielding the floor.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.