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Lisa Murkowski says she was 'disturbed' by Mitch McConnell's Senate trial impeachment plan

What could that mean for a Senate trial?

Anna Moneymaker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) wasn't too fond of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) plan to coordinate with the White House's legal team in an expected impeachment trial in the upper chamber.

Earlier this month, when discussing what kind of trial process the Senate would use to deal with the impeachment of President Donald Trump, McConnell told Fox News that, while he hoped that a Senate impeachment trial would be "a shorter process rather than a long, lengthy process," he would be in "total coordination" with the White House's legal team on the matter.

In an interview with Alaska NBC affiliate KTUU-TV which aired earlier this week, Murkowski said that just didn't sit well with her, telling the outlet that "in fairness, when I heard that I was disturbed."

The senator explained to the outlet that she believes that the upper chamber should be more independent of the executive branch in going about a trial.

"To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process," she said.

Murkowski also said that she's undecided on how she'll vote until evidence has been presented.

"For me to pre-judge and say 'there's nothing there' or, on the other hand, 'he should be impeached yesterday,' that's wrong. In my view, that's wrong," said the lawmaker, who also criticized the rushed nature of the House's impeachment process.

Murkowski has long had an independent streak and has a notable history of bucking the Republican Party line, so her voicing concerns about something McConnell has said on a key matter before the chamber isn't all that surprising on its face. However, it does add a little more uncertainty to what the process and structure of a Senate trial could potentially look like.

Currently, members of the House and Senate are in a standoff over the setup of a Senate trial. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) has plainly said that the House can't send over impeachment articles "until we know what sort of trial the Senate will conduct."

In turn, President Trump has accused Pelosi of "trying to take over the Senate" by holding out, and Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has called on the speaker "to fish or cut bait" and send the matter to the upper chamber "consistent with Constitutional obligations."

One of the most salient Democrat demands of a Senate trial has been put forward by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who wants the Senate to hear witnesses whose testimony was blocked by the White House's invocation of executive privilege.

So what does that have to do with Murkowski? Currently, the Senate has a 53 Republicans majority, which means that — when it comes to setting the rules for the trial — it would only take a small bloc of four GOP holdouts to gum up the works and give Democrats the ability to get more procedural concessions friendly to them, which could affect what kind of witnesses are called, if any, and how long the trial might take, among others.

Put simply: It's not at all unrealistic that, if such a bloc were to form in the rules debate, Murkowski could be a part of it and that her concerns could potentially make things difficult for Republican leadership. She notes in the KTUU interview that it "remains to be seen" how the chamber will handle "witnesses."

Footage of Murkowski's interview can be found here:

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