Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others in the Republican Senate have publicly vowed to gift Donald Trump a sham impeachment trial and automatic acquittal. Today, Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski said she’s “disturbed” over what she sees playing out right now. It’s tempting to write this off as merely yet another instance of a complicit Republican expressing concern before rubber-stamping whatever Trump wants. But there’s reason to believe there may be something more going on here.
McConnell is already in an unusually vulnerable position. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is holding off on sending him the articles of impeachment until he makes concessions toward a fair trial. Trump is pressuring McConnell to hold a trial as soon as possible, because he desperately wants to be acquitted. For McConnell to please them both, he’ll have to find a way to give enough concessions to Pelosi, while not giving so many concessions that Trump becomes enraged and blows up the whole thing.
McConnell would rather not hold a trial at all, due to the sheer number of ways in which it can go wrong for him, and put his Senate Republican majority at risk in 2020. Now, even as McConnell tries to thread the trickiest of needles, one of his own Republican Senators is publicly attacking him for how he’s handling impeachment. This further weakens McConnell’s position, because now he has to make at least some concessions to Murkowski in order to keep her happy.
This isn’t about whether you like, respect, or trust Lisa Murkowski, or whether you think she’s going to do the right thing. She’s simply trying to get what she needs out of this, which is the appearance of propriety, so she can vote to acquit Trump and then go back and believably tell her constituents in Alaska that she didn’t participate in a sham trial. If you want to be cynical about it, Murkowski is doing what she thinks is best for herself – she just happens to be weakening McConnell and helping Nancy Pelosi in the process.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report