Murkowski says she'll vote to acquit Trump despite 'shameful and wrong' behavior

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSenators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial Trump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Murkowski didn't vote for Trump, won't join Democrats MORE (R-Alaska) said on Monday that she will vote to acquit President TrumpDonald TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 MORE on the two House-passed articles of impeachment.

Murkowski is the first of a small group of potential swing-vote senators to announce her decision ahead of Wednesday’s expected final vote.

"I cannot vote to convict. The Constitution provides for impeachment but does not demand it in all instances," Murkowski said from the Senate floor, adding that removing Trump from office would be "the political death penalty."


Asked by reporters off the Senate floor if she had any advice for Trump, she quipped as the elevator doors closed, "Read the transcript."

Murkowski indicated that Trump's fate should be left up to voters, noting that 2020 ballots were already being printed.

"The voters will pronounce a verdict in nine months, and we must trust their judgement," she said during her floor speech.

Though Murkowski said she would vote to acquit Trump, she also publicly chastised him over his decision to ask Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to "look into" former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenFive examples of media's sycophancy for Biden on inauguration week Drastic measures for drastic times — caregiver need mobile health apps Boycott sham impeachment MORE and his son Hunter Biden.

"The president's behavior was shameful and wrong. His personal interests do not take precedence over those of this great nation," she said.

Asked if she thought the House had proved its case that Trump delayed military aid to Ukraine in an effort to pressure the country to announce investigations into Democrats, Murkowski signaled that she thinks there are examples of mixed motives about the president's actions but that a factor was wanting an investigation into the Bidens.


"It is very clear he said the things that he said. That to me is apparent. But I do believe that you also have the recognition that the president was concerned about issues of burden sharing," she told reporters after her speech.

"I believe that aid was withheld, and I think that based on what we heard clearly a factor in that was the president was looking for a certain action from President Zelensky as it related to the Bidens. Yes, I believe that," Murkowski continued.

Murkowski also used the roughly 10 minute speech and a lengthy talk with reporters afterward to voice frustration with both the House's and Senate's handling of the impeachment effort. 

"The House failed in its responsibilities, and the Senate should be ashamed by the rank partisanship that has been on display here," Murkowski said.

Murkowski added that the Senate debate was "wallowing in partisan mud" and also characterized the House's investigation as "rushed," which "rotted" the "foundation" of the impeachment effort.

Though Murkowski announced her decision on the Senate floor Monday, she indicated to reporters last week that she had already made a decision on whether to find Trump guilty of the two House-passed articles: abusing his power and obstructing Congress in its investigation.

Murkowski has broken with her party on crucial votes, including voting against an ObamaCare repeal in 2017 and being the only GOP senator to oppose Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughUndoing Trump will take more than executive orders LIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday MORE's Supreme Court nomination.

But she also fell in line last week when she voted against allowing witnesses in the Senate's impeachment trial.

Murkowski indicated at the time that her decision was swayed in part by wanting to avoid a 50-50 tie. Democrats had been pressuring Chief Justice John Roberts to break the tie and allow new witnesses.

"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," Murkowski said in a statement at the time.

She also appeared frustrated with the Senate as an institution, saying that "Congress has failed" and that there would "be no fair trial in the Senate."

Asked after her speech if she was referring to Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCancel culture comes for the moderates Biden expands on Obama ethics pledge Student loan forgiveness would be windfall for dentists, doctors and lawyers MORE's (D-Mass.) question from last week, Murkowski said, "Yes." Warren asked if Roberts presiding over a trial in which GOP senators had not yet allowed witnesses contributed to a "loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution."


But Murkowski also appeared to indicate that her concern about a 50-50 tie wasn't the only reason she voted against allowing witnesses.

"It absolutely took it to a different dimension," she said. "There were many factors that weighed in but the insinuation ... that we need to make the judiciary as political as the legislative and executive branches are is wrongheaded." 

Her speech came toward the end of the Senate's workday, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) had already set the schedule for Tuesday. Senators are expected to use Tuesday and Wednesday until 4 p.m. to give speeches about their decisions.

Updated at 7:47 p.m.