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GOP senators urge Trump to back off Murkowski threat

Top Senate Republicans are urging President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE to back off a threat to campaign against Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiFor Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' MORE (R-Alaska) if she runs for reelection in 2022.

Trump tweeted late last week that he would be campaigning in Alaska in 2022 against Murkowski and would back anyone with a "pulse" after she told reporters that she was "struggling" with whether she could support him in 2020.

But top Senate Republicans indicated on Monday that they don't support efforts to unseat Murkowski, who is one of the Senate GOP caucus's most moderate members.

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"I'd leave Lisa alone. She's a member of our conference, and we want to keep it that way," said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Biden steps into debt fight on Capitol Hill McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Republican senator.

Asked about Trump's tweet, Sen. John CornynJohn CornynLimbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration Top Texas Democratic Party staffers to step down after underwhelming election results K Street navigates virtual inauguration week MORE (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump selects South Carolina lawyer for impeachment trial McConnell proposes postponing impeachment trial until February For Biden, a Senate trial could aid bipartisanship around COVID relief MORE (R-Ky.), told reporters, "I don’t support that at all."

Murkowski has found herself once again a target for Trump after she told reporters she was struggling with whether she could back Trump, even as she said she would continue to work with him and the administration.

"I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time," said Murkowski, who did not vote for Trump in 2016.

Trump quickly fired back that in 2022 he will be "in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski."

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"Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don't care, I'm endorsing. If you have a pulse, I'm with you!" he added.

Murkowski on Monday said she stood by her comments despite the president's reaction.

"I think it's important that we have a president that's working to bring people together," she said. "Tone and words matter."

Asked if his tweet made it less likely she would support him, Murkowski recounted how she told a reporter during the debate over repealing ObamaCare that she "cannot live in fear of a tweet."

"That's where I am now," she said.

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It's not the first time Trump has signaled frustration with the GOP senator. After she came out in opposition to then-Supreme Court nominee Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLIVE INAUGURATION COVERAGE: Biden signs executive orders; press secretary holds first briefing Harris to resign from Senate seat on Monday Why we need Section 230 more than ever MORE, Trump vowed that Murkowski would "never recover" with Alaska voters.

Murkowski was appointed to her Senate seat in 2002, before winning her first full term in 2004.

In 2010, she became the second Senate candidate to win a write-in campaign, which she launched after losing the battle for her party's nomination.

On Monday, two members of GOP leadership — Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief A Day in Photos: The Biden Inauguration GOP senator calls Biden's COVID-19 relief plan a 'non-starter' MORE (R-Mo.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone GOP senators praise Biden's inauguration speech MORE (R-Wyo.) — pointed to Murkowski's write-in campaign, signaling that she would likely be hard to beat in Alaska.

"She won a ... write-in in her race. The last time that had happened was 1954," Barrasso said. "She knows her state."