Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) made news last week as the first Republican senator to deplore the farcical impeachment trial that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been attempting to design in “total coordination” with the White House. The Post reported:

Murkowski told NBC affiliate KTUU that she believes there should be distance between the Senate, which will serve as the jury for [President] Trump’s impeachment trial, and the White House. McConnell’s comments, she said, have “further confused the process.” "To me, it means we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense,” Murkowski said. ... Murkowski told KTUU she is committed to observing Trump’s trial objectively. It would be “wrong,” she said, “to prejudge and say there’s nothing there.” To jump to conclusions about Trump’s guilt would also be unfair, Murkowski added.

She is hardly an apologist for House Democrats. (“The House, Murkowski said, mishandled the process when two key witnesses followed White House direction and refused to testify: Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney ignored a subpoena, and former national security adviser John Bolton indicated he would fight a subpoena in court.”) Whether you think it was realistic or not for the House to wait for final court rulings on those top witnesses, her instinct for fairness and evident respect for the oath she will take as a juror in the trial are commendable and unique on the Republican side. With all that in mind, I would hope that she consider the following open letter:

Dear Sen. Murkowski,

More than any other current Republican senator, you have demonstrated your independent judgment and devotion to your constituents regardless of partisan demands. You voted to preserve the Affordable Care Act and against confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, despite enormous pressure from your party. Once more, in objecting to a fixed trial with rules dictated by President Trump, you have distinguished yourself as someone willing to place country and Constitution above party.

You alone cannot stop a grievous injury to our Constitution, but with several Republican colleagues (might I suggest Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, retiring senators and those senators whose constituents will run them out of town on a rail for going along with a rigged trial), you have the ability to stop a travesty that would bring dishonor on the Senate, prevent a full accounting of the president’s conduct and result in a verdict lacking credibility with the American people.

Reasonable minds can differ as to whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should have fought all the way to the Supreme Court to force the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. However, you are correct that a complete and accurate account of the president’s conduct is impossible without the testimony of these two individuals.

Moreover, since you publicly made clear your concerns, the New York Times reported:

What emerges is the story of how Mr. Trump’s demands sent shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon, created deep rifts within the senior ranks of his administration, left key aides like Mr. Mulvaney under intensifying scrutiny — and ended only after Mr. Trump learned of a damning whistle-blower report and came under pressure from influential Republican lawmakers. . . . In late August, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper joined Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton, the national security adviser at the time, for a previously undisclosed Oval Office meeting with the president where they tried but failed to convince him that releasing the aid was in interests of the United States.

This further underscores the necessity of subpoenaing not only these four officials but also Robert B. Blair, a White House aide who facilitated the hold on aid, which was intended to pressure Ukraine into announcing an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden. As Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a news conference in New York on Monday, “Simply put: In our fight to have key documents and witnesses in a Senate impeachment trial, these new revelations are a game-changer. This new reporting shows that there were serious concerns raised by Trump administration officials about the propriety and legality of what the president was doing.” Schumer added, “According to this story, there was even a dramatic, intervention-style meeting about this in the Oval Office, where President Trump’s most senior national security officials pleaded with him to release the military aid to Ukraine.”

Imagine if the Senate refused to insist that these witnesses appear and if we subsequently learned Trump had made crystal clear to these potential witnesses that he would not release aid until a spurious investigation into Biden was announced, even after being warned of serious consequences to national security and of such action’s illegality. The American people would then see that the Senate had been complicit in a cover-up of Trump’s serious, impeachable conduct.

There is an easy remedy to the problem, which takes into account your legitimate concern that Trump should not be constructing a trial that inevitably leads to his exoneration. In criminal trials, it is commonplace for witnesses not available at the time of indictment to be subpoenaed for trial. Indeed, the nature of an indictment — in this case an impeachment — requires a much lower level of evidence than for conviction/removal. Naturally then, additional documentation and witnesses must be gathered for trial to ensure the fairest and most complete proceeding.

You and several Republican colleagues can ensure that the Senate’s reputation is preserved, the American people (who overwhelmingly want to hear from witnesses) get the entire story of what occurred and, if impeachable conduct was committed, a dangerous and disloyal president is not left in office. All that you and a few Republicans need to do is insist that the Senate issue subpoenas, facilitated by the chief justice, for relevant documents and for the five witnesses (Bolton, Blair, Mulvaney, Esper and Pompeo) to testify as to whether the president personally directed aid to be held up and did so at least in part to further his political objectives.

An action so easily accomplished and so obviously fair should get the support of all 100 senators. And perhaps, if you and just a few Republicans step forward, others might follow suit. As with the ACA, Americans look to the shrinking group of conscientious Republicans to put country and simple fairness above slavish party loyalty.


A fellow American

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