Murkowski wants to hear case before deciding on witnesses

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JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she's comfortable waiting to decide if more information is needed as part of the Senate's impeachment trial until after hearing arguments from House managers and attorneys for President Donald Trump and questions from members.

The Republican said Saturday she wants to make sure there's a process that allows senators to “really hear the case” and ask questions “before we make that determination as to, what more do we need. I don't know what more we need until I've been given the base case.”

Murkowski spoke to reporters from Anchorage ahead of Senate impeachment trial proceedings expected to begin Tuesday.

If Democrats try to add certain witnesses to an organizing resolution, Murkowski said she expects Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would move to table such a request and that she would support a tabling motion.

“Because what I’ve worked hard to do is make sure that we have a process that will allow for that determination” — whether witnesses or documents are needed, she said. “But I want to have that at a point where I know whether or not I'm going to need it.”

She said there are political pressures “on all of us” but said her responsibility is “not to focus on the politics of where we are but a recognition that we are in the midst of an infrequent and in many ways extraordinary process that the Constitution allows for, and I’m going to take my constitutional obligations very, very seriously."

Regardless of how one views the House's handling of the impeachment process, the matter is now before the Senate, she said, adding later she does not want the proceedings to become a "circus."

Trump was impeached by the House on charges he abused his power by pushing Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rival Joe Biden and that he obstructed Congress by blocking witnesses and testimony in the House investigation. Trump has said he did nothing wrong.

Murkowski said a recent Government Accountability Office report that concluded the White House violated federal law by withholding congressionally approved security aid to Ukraine reminded her of last year's debate over Trump's declaration of a border emergency that he invoked to spend more for border barriers than Congress had approved.

During that debate, she said she maintained the president could not take funds congressionally directed to one area and use them to advance his own policies. “Whether it was for the wall or for any other thing, I have been one that has said, ‘Congress has a very specific role when it comes to appropriation of funding and that needs to be respected,’” she said.

She said she viewed the GAO report with a “little bit of concern,” in part because of the need to respect Congress' appropriation powers.

In a telephone interview Friday with the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska's other Republican U.S. senator, Dan Sullivan, said he supports using the same rules as the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, which Sullivan said would give Trump a “fair and balanced” process. Under those rules, he said, the determination of whether or not to bring witnesses would happen in the second phase.

“I think this is going to be a stark contrast to what happened over in the House where you literally witnessed the most rushed most partisan and unprepared impeachment proceedings in the House in U.S. history," Sullivan said.

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