According to an exclusive excerpt from a new book, tensions between Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) created the first impeachment of then-President Trump in the winter of 2020. New revelations about what McConnell did behind the scenes to help Trump during the first impeachment trial show that the minority leader was one of Trump’s most potent Senate allies before his dramatic upset on January 6 after the Capitol attack. They also show that while McConnell now supports Murkowski’s re-election bid against Trump-backed challenger Kelly Tshibaka, just two years ago the two senators disagreed on how to answer questions about Trump’s conduct and fitness for office. The upcoming book, Unchecked:
The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Appointments of Donald Trump, reveals that McConnell strongly supported Murkowski to vote against calling more witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Murkowski said publicly at the time that she was “troubled” by McConnell’s promise to work in “full coordination” with Trump’s legal team and to “take my cues from the president’s lawyers.”
Murkowski viewed the senators as members of an impartial jury rather than an extension of the defense team, telling a reporter in Alaska just before Christmas 2019 that McConnell had further muddled the process. Murkowski’s criticism of McConnell began to mount on Twitter. When he woke up late the next morning after wrapping Christmas presents in his cabin near Anchorage, he found what he called a “quick” message from McConnell in his email inbox. It was “a show that made him feel like a holiday for two days. The manager was not happy with his comments. And he wanted to talk to him,” longtime Washington reporters Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian write in Unchecked, on sale Oct. 18.
McConnell later tried to mend fences with Murkowski, who he knew was a key Republican. If he left. , would oppose Trump The allegations have created a huge political liability for the president and his party heading into 2020. After a break in Washington, McConnell invited Murkowski to the Senate and told him, ‘You and I are on the same page.’ He said he hasn’t had a hard time for a long time, recalling how Murkowski criticized him in the same interview and also criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for rushing the impeachment inquiry.
And he tried to defend his claim that he works closely with the White House legal team, arguing that Democrats did the same during Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial. But it was still a sore subject for Murkowski. “Well, don’t advertise it!” he fought back. Bade, a Politico Playbook contributor, and Demirjian, a member of The Washington Post’s national security team, write that Murkowski also struggled with how to handle the trial and how to vote on a key issue that would hold House Democrats accountable. to call more witnesses, which would prolong the trial by weeks or even months.
McConnell worked behind the scenes to force him to step down and vote with the Democrats. He knew he couldn’t bully him, so he had to use the tactics he used so effectively in his leadership years to persuade his stubborn Republican colleague to toe the party line. “McConnell never threatened. He never bullied. And although he often left her room to follow his own intuition, he could accuse and corner her,” the authors write. Murkowski was a critical player in the 2020 impeachment trial, as she proved to be the deciding vote on whether to call witnesses.
Unlike a vote on impeachment and impeachment, which requires a two-thirds majority of the Senate—which was never a real possibility in January 2020—the procedural vote to call more witnesses was a simple majority. Republicans had 53 seats, but Sen. Susan Collins (R), a moderate running for re-election in the Democratic state of Maine, and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), an outspoken critic of Trump, had to vote. additional witnesses.
If Murkowski joined them, the issue would be 50-50 and Chief Justice John Roberts would have to decide or ask the deciding question. McConnell knew that Murkowski respected Roberts, who was leading the Senate trial, and took advantage of that. He warned that if he votes with Democrats on the subpoena, Roberts will find himself in a political firestorm with other justices who must rule on Trump’s legal appeals.
“The next vote during this impeachment trial is not about conviction or acquittal,” McConnell pointedly told Murkowski, according to the book. “It’s about how to vote on witnesses — and what position that puts the courts in.” He told Murkowski that he should protect the integrity of the judiciary and prevent what he sees as a politically motivated impeachment process from damaging the image of the federal judiciary as above politics.
“If you don’t want to do it as president, if you don’t want to do it to the Senate, if you don’t want to do it to colleagues in 2020, do it to save the courts,” he said. . . . This and other “unverified” anecdotes are compiled from the authors’ interviews with key figures in the Trump impeachment trial.
The sources were given anonymity to protect them from political and personal accusations. While Murkowski was nervous about the witness issue, she was certain Trump acted wrongly when he used his power as president to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on then-Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in a July phone call. call, However, the Alaska senator thought about House
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