Murkowski: Treatment of White House protesters 'not the America I know'

Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHouse passes bill to expand workplace protections for nursing mothers Democrats look for plan B on filibuster Senate will vote on John Lewis voting bill as soon as next week MORE (R-Alaska) appeared to break with the decision to use tear gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters at the White House on Monday night.

Asked if the treatment of protesters was appropriate and if it was an abuse of power, Murkowski said, “I did not think that what we saw last night was the America I know."

Protesters were forcefully moved away from Lafayette Square on Monday night with the use of tear gas and rubber bullets after law enforcement was ordered to clear the area so President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE could cross the street to walk to St. John’s Church, which had been set on fire by vandals the night before.

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The tactics have sparked fierce backlash from Democrats, who have called the move an "abuse of power" and one that could have potentially been illegal.

Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTim Scott takes in .3 million in third quarter Nikki Haley gets lifetime post on Clemson Board of Trustees First senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid MORE (R-S.C.) told Politico that law enforcement should not have used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters.

“But obviously, if your question is, should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo-op, the answer is no,” he said.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case MORE (R-S.C.) didn't directly criticize Trump but told reporters, "I don’t know what the purpose of the trip was."

"I mean, to show appreciation for the church? I don’t know. You’ll have to ask him what he was trying to accomplish. I do know that last night was a bad night and we need less bad nights," he said.

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But Senate Republicans have largely refrained from criticizing the president, with several saying they didn't see footage of the protests.

“I didn’t watch that closely enough to know what happened there," said Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyIn Montana, a knock-down redistricting fight over a single line Trump-backed bills on election audits, illegal voting penalties expected to die in Texas legislature The Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government MORE (R-Utah).

Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonA pandemic of hyper-hypocrisy is infecting American politics Sen. Ron Johnson hoping for Democratic 'gridlock' on reconciliation package Republicans' mantra should have been 'Stop the Spread' MORE (R-Wis.) also told reporters that he "didn't really see it."

Other GOP senators also defended the decision.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate GOP campaign arm outraises Democratic counterpart in September House passes bills to secure telecommunications infrastructure Senators call for answers from US firm over reported use of forced Uyghur labor in China MORE (R-Fla.) contested that the crowd was cleared so that Trump could cross the street, telling reporters "that's not accurate."

"The bottom line is that there was a curfew at 7 p.m. ... It was 6:45. ... You disobey police orders that you have an unlawful congregation of people. They know the police have to move forward on them, that will trigger the use of tear gas, and it plays right into the imagery that they want," Rubio added.