Schiff says classified documents case against Trump ‘a lot stronger’ after new indictment

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) argued Thursday that the classified documents case against former President Trump is now "a lot stronger," after the Justice Department (DOJ) announced new new charges in the case.

“Trump apparently asked for Mar-a-Lago security footage to be deleted. After getting a subpoena to produce it, no less,” Schiff tweeted Thursday. “The case against him for illegally retaining classified information and for obstruction just got stronger. A lot stronger.”

In Thursday's superseding indictment, the DOJ accused Trump of attempting to delete surveillance footage at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. The new charges claim the former president acted with a new co-conspirator, Carlos De Oliveira — the property manager of the Mar-a-Lago hotel — and aide Walt Nauta, who has already been charged in the case, to try and get rid of the footage.

Schiff, who served as the House impeachment manager during Trump's first impeachment trial, has faced retaliation from his Republican colleagues for his former role.

House Republicans voted to censure him late last month for “for misleading the American public and for conduct unbecoming of an elected Member of the House of Representatives.”

“Today, I wear this partisan vote as a badge of honor,” Schiff said at the time. “Knowing that I have lived my oath."

"Knowing that I have done my duty, to hold a dangerous and out of control president accountable," he continued. "And knowing that I would do so again — in a heartbeat — if the circumstances should ever require it."

McCarthy denies he promised Trump vote on expunging impeachments

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday denied making a promise to former President Trump that the House would vote to expunge his impeachments, shooting down a report that said the GOP leader pledged the vote as a way to temper tensions with the former president.

“There’s no deal,” McCarthy told reporters Thursday, “but I’ve been very clear from long before when I voted against impeachments, that they did it for purely political purposes.”

“I support expungement, but there’s no deal out there,” he added.

His comments contradict a Thursday morning report from Politico Playbook that McCarthy assured Trump that the House would vote to erase his impeachments, citing a source close to Trump and familiar with the conversation.

In the report, the vow was characterized as part of the Speaker's effort to reconcile with Trump in the wake of an interview late last month that landed him in hot water with the former president; McCarthy had said he was unsure if Trump was the “strongest” person to beat President Biden in 2024.

McCarthy launched a cleanup effort within the same day as the initial comment, telling the conservative Breitbart News in a subsequent interview that Trump is “Biden’s strongest political opponent,” sending out a fundraising blast with the same message and, according to The New York Times, calling the former president for a conversation that two sources characterized as an apology.

According to Politico, though, Trump wanted an endorsement from McCarthy following the squabble, which the Speaker was not willing to offer, as he seeks to stay neutral in the primary. Instead, a source told the outlet, McCarthy promised that the House would vote to expunge his impeachments.

McCarthy later communicated, through aides, that he would hold the vote before August recess — which is set to begin next Friday — according to Politico, but he recently told the former president's team that the vote will happen by the end of September, the outlet noted.

Either of those deadlines, however, would be difficult for McCarthy to meet. The House from now through September is working on spending bills for the annual appropriations process, with a Sept. 30 deadline looming. The process is already the source of disagreements within the GOP conference.

Even if McCarthy were to bring the expungement resolutions to the floor for a vote, it is unlikely that they would garner enough support to pass. The vote would push purple-district Republicans into a tough spot politically, and likely turn off others who are unsure if expungement is constitutionally possible.

A number of GOP lawmakers Thursday signaled hesitance to expunge the impeachments, with one House Republican — who said their views “represent a fair number of principled conservatives” — saying they would likely oppose any effort to erase the punishments.

“I have every expectation I’ll vote against expungement, and I have every expectation that I will work to bring others with me,” the lawmaker said, noting that they communicated that position with leadership.

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McCarthy voiced support for expunging both of Trump’s impeachments last month, telling reporters that one of the rebukes “was not based on true facts” and the other was “on the basis of no due process.” He said it was “appropriate” to expunge them “because it never should have gone through.”

The House — led by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — voted to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in late 2019, in response to his threat to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless leaders in Kyiv launched an investigation into Joe Biden, his political opponent. No Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the punishment.

Then, in early 2021, the House impeached Trump for a second time following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, penalizing him for “incitement of insurrection.” That time around, 10 Republicans voted to impeach. Just two — Reps. Dan Newhouse (Wash.) and David Valadao (Calif.) — are still in Congress.

In both cases, Republicans in the Senate acquitted Trump.

Immediately after the Capitol riot, McCarthy took to the House floor and declared that Trump bore “responsibility” for the violence.

But when it became apparent that the Republican Party was remaining loyal to Trump, he reversed his stance, meeting with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida a few weeks later. He later claimed that Trump did not “provoke” the attack.

The renewed discourse over the expulsion resolutions came the same week that Trump disclosed that he was informed that he is a target in the Justice Department’s investigation into his efforts to stay in power after the 2020 election, including the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. He said he received a “target letter” Sunday night, which is often a sign that someone could soon be charged.

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) are leading the effort to expunge Trump’s impeachments; Greene sponsored the resolution relating to the first impeachment, relating to Ukraine, and Stefanik is taking the lead on the second, pertaining to Jan. 6.

This story was updated at 6:18 p.m.

McCarthy backs effort to expunge Trump impeachments

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is throwing his weight behind the conservative effort to expunge the two impeachments of former President Trump, saying Trump’s behavior didn't rise to a level that merited either punishment, and he would like to eradicate both votes from history. 

Leaving the Capitol on Friday ahead of a long holiday recess, the Speaker said he supports erasing the pair of impeachments because, he argued, one “was not based on true facts” and the other was “on the basis of no due process.”

“I think it is appropriate, just as I thought before, that you should expunge it because it never should have gone through,” McCarthy told reporters outside his office. He later clarified he supports expunging both Trump impeachments, but he emphasized such resolutions must first go through the committee process.

The Speaker’s endorsement of the expungement push highlights both the tenuous grip McCarthy has on his conference, where conservatives are holding his feet to the fire on numerous policy issues, and the powerful influence Trump retains over the Republican Party more than two years after leaving office. 

More House coverage from The Hill

Behind then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Democrats successfully impeached Trump twice: The first vote, in late 2019, found that Trump abused his power when he threatened to withhold U.S. military aid to Ukraine unless leaders in Kyiv launched an investigation of his political rivals. The second, in early 2021, found Trump responsible for “incitement of insurrection” for his role in encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In the House, the first impeachment passed without any Republican support. The second was different, and 10 Republicans crossed the aisle to impeach Trump for the Capitol rampage. In both cases, Trump’s Republican allies in the Senate rallied to prevent a conviction.

Just two of the 10 Republicans who supported the second impeachment still serve in the House: Reps. Dan Newhouse (Wash.) and David Valadao (Calif.).

McCarthy's position on the Jan. 6 attack has shifted over time. 

Immediately following the Capitol rampage, McCarthy went to the floor and said Trump bore "responsibility" for the violence, which was carried out by Trump supporters trying to block the certification of his 2020 election defeat. 

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When it became clear the GOP was sticking behind Trump, McCarthy quickly reversed course, visiting Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida a few weeks later. He would go on to say Trump did not "provoke" the riot, and he then orchestrated the expulsion of then-Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from GOP leadership for her refusal to indulge Trump's lies about his election defeat.

Asked about potentially expunging the punishments in January, the newly-elected Speaker said he would “look at it.”

House GOP Conference Chairwoman Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) launched an effort to expunge Trump’s impeachments on Thursday, unveiling two resolutions that would discard the disciplines. Greene is the sponsor of the measure targeting Trump’s first impeachment, and Stefanik’s name is on the second one.

The practical implications of the resolutions are dubious because they can do nothing to revisit the impeachment votes or eradicate the public’s memory of them. Still, the bills are designed to do both, claiming the expungement will reset the historical record "as if such Articles had never passed."

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.)

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) speaks during a press conference held by the Republican Study Committee announcing their Fiscal Year 2024 Budget at the Capitol on Wednesday, June 14, 2023.

Earlier this week, before the measures were introduced, Greene said she is hoping to see a vote on the floor for the resolutions “soon.”

The push to expunge Trump’s impeachment is not new on Capitol Hill: In the last Congress, then-Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla), who now serves in the Senate, introduced resolutions to expunge both of the former president’s impeachments. They did not, however, advance in the Democratic-controlled House.

Democrats wasted no time this week attacking the Republicans supporting expungement, accusing them of carrying water for a twice-disgraced former president solely because he remains so powerful among GOP voters. 

“It’s a continuation of Republicans acting as Donald Trump's taxpayer-funded lawyers,” said Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), who was a lead attorney for the Democrats during the first impeachment.

“It's telling who's introducing them," he added. "And it's essentially whoever's trying to curry the most favor with Trump.”

McCarthy says he will look at expunging Trump impeachment

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said on Thursday that he would consider expunging one or both of former President Trump’s impeachments.

“I would understand why members would want to bring that forward,” McCarthy said in response to a question at a press conference on Thursday, before listing off several other key priorities for House Republicans. 

“But I understand why individuals want to do it, and we’d look at it,” he added.

In the last Congress, a group of more than 30 House Republicans led by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (Okla.) put forward a resolution to expunge Trump’s impeachment in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The resolution was supported by the fourth-ranking Republican in the House, Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik (N.Y.).

A smaller group, again led by Mullin, also introduced a resolution to expunge Trump’s December 2019 impeachment for allegedly attempting to withhold military aid from Ukraine in an effort to pressure the country to investigate the business dealings of President Biden’s son Hunter Biden.

The Senate ultimately acquitted Trump in both impeachments, after failing to reach the two-thirds majority required to convict him.

Pelosi’s most memorable moments as Speaker

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) announcement Thursday that she will not seek a leadership position for the House Democratic Caucus next session will end her 20-year tenure as the top Democrat in the body. 

Pelosi has been elemental in many key moments since she took over as House Democrats’ leader in 2003 and as House Speaker in 2007, serving multiple terms as minority leader and Speaker. 

She helped orchestrate landmark legislative accomplishments during the Obama and Biden administrations while working to hold her party, composed of moderate and progressive wings, together. 

She was also a trailblazer in her own right, becoming the first woman to hold several different congressional leadership positions, including whip, minority leader and Speaker. 

Here are a few of Pelosi’s most memorable moments as Speaker: 

Becoming first female Speaker of the House 

Pelosi made history through several leadership positions she held in Congress. She was elected to her first leadership position in 2001 as House minority whip, the first woman to hold the role. She narrowly defeated Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for the job. 

Hoyer would eventually serve as House majority leader and work closely with Pelosi in Democratic leadership. 

Pelosi succeeded Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) as House minority leader in 2002 after Gephardt declined to run again to prepare for a run for the presidency in 2004. She also became the first woman in that role. 

Pelosi was an easy choice for Democrats as House Speaker after they won back a majority in the House in the 2006 midterm elections. She was chosen unanimously, becoming the first woman and the first Italian American to serve as Speaker in 2007. 

Almost exactly 16 years after the party chose her to become Speaker, she announced her decision not to run for another term in House leadership. 

Pelosi served as Speaker from 2007 to 2011 and took on the post again in 2019. She became the first person to serve nonconsecutive terms as House Speaker since Sam Rayburn (D-Texas) in the 1950s.

Calling on Bush to reject plan to escalate Iraq involvement 

Pelosi was an early opponent of the Iraq War, splitting from much of her own party in voting against the resolution that gave the Bush administration authorization to use military force in the country in 2002. 

She said in her statement announcing her decision on the vote that she was not convinced that all diplomatic remedies had been exhausted and had not seen evidence that Iraq posed an imminent threat to the United States. 

She continued her opposition to the war once she became Speaker in 2007. When the Bush administration announced its plan for a surge in the number of troops present in Iraq, she and then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) condemned the plan. 

They said the increase would delay the ability of the Iraqi government to “take control of their own future” after the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and that adding more combat troops would not contribute to success. 

They called for a shifting in the U.S. mission from combat to training, logistics, force protection and counterterrorism efforts, which President Obama eventually oversaw after he became president in 2009. 

Still, Pelosi refused to cut off funding for the military operation in Iraq, saying that she would not end financial support while U.S. soldiers remained in harm’s way. She emphasized increased congressional oversight of how funds were being used, trying to strike a balance between more liberal and moderate members of the caucus. 

Passing the Affordable Care Act 

The Affordable Care Act was one of the most significant legislative achievements of President Obama’s administration and Pelosi was a central figure in the legislation getting passed. 

Numerous Democratic presidents going back to Franklin Roosevelt had proposed or advocated for some form of universal health care, but they either failed to get it passed or focused on other initiatives.  

Democrats made large gains in both houses of Congress, but they were one seat short of the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Obama wanted to achieve a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system, but his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, advised Obama to scale back his plans and try for a much smaller bill. 

Pelosi rejected the idea, calling the smaller-plan idea “kiddie care.” 

She became an architect of the final bill that ultimately passed, working to make the necessary changes to get the bill the support it needed. One change included the removal of federal funding for abortion, which Pelosi struggled with but deemed necessary to get Democrats who opposed abortion to support the bill. 

After various agreements were reached, Congress passed the act and Obama signed it into law. The president called Pelosi “one of the best Speakers” the House has ever had before he signed it. 

Announcing the first impeachment inquiry into President Trump 

Relations between Trump and congressional Democrats, in part led by Pelosi, reached their most contentious point at the time after the House voted to impeach him in December 2019. 

Controversy swelled after reports indicated Trump had a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July of that year in which he pressured Zelensky to launch an investigation into President Biden, then a candidate for the presidency in 2020, and his son, Hunter. 

Pelosi initiated a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump in September following a whistleblower’s complaint against Trump, leading to his impeachment. Pelosi oversaw the process, in which all but three Democrats voted to impeach him for abuse of power and all but four voted to impeach him for obstruction of Congress. 

All Republicans voted against the two articles, while former Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), who left the Republican Party and became an independent, voted for them. Trump became the third president to be impeached. 

“The actions of the Trump presidency have revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said in a statement after announcing the inquiry. 

Tearing up Trump’s State of the Union address 

Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address came at a tense moment, one day before the Senate was set to take its vote on the impeachment charges against him. 

Trump appeared to ignore Pelosi after she reached out for a handshake before he began his speech. This was the first time the two of them had been in the same room since Pelosi walked out of a meeting with him in the White House the previous October. Trump called her a “third-rate” politician after the meeting. 

Pelosi often shook her head as Trump made reference to policies like health care and Social Security, but she received the most attention for tearing up a copy of his speech in half at the conclusion of it. 

“It was the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives,” Pelosi told reporters after. 

Trump did not mention impeachment during his address, instead emphasizing his administration’s policies. 

Pelosi reportedly later called the speech a “manifesto of mistruths.”

A video of Pelosi clapping at Trump during his 2019 State of the Union as he spoke about an end to "revenge politics" also went viral, giving Pelosi much attention online.

Responding to the chaos on Jan. 6 

The position of House Speaker is not constitutionally responsible for the certification of the Electoral College results — that duty falls to the vice president. But Pelosi was deeply involved in responding to the events of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, when rioters hoping to stop the certification stormed the Capitol. 

After the rioters entered the Capitol, Congress paused its session to certify the votes, and Pelosi and other congressional leaders were taken to Fort McNair for safety while law enforcement tried to take control of the situation. 

Video clips released by the House select committee investigating the attack showed Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) vigorously making urgent phone calls to multiple state and federal officials to send help. 

Pelosi, then-Vice President Mike Pence and other leaders also discussed the idea of continuing the certification process at Fort McNair. 

Pelosi repeatedly emphasized throughout the day that regardless of the rioters, the certification process must continue. 

“If they stop the proceedings, we will have totally failed,” she said. 

Announcing her plans to step down as speaker 

Speculation built up in the months leading up to the midterm elections this year as to whether Pelosi would continue to serve as Speaker, following through on her previous promise from 2018 to step down after four more years in the role. 

Pelosi largely stayed quiet about her plans and deflected questions before the election. She said the recent attack on her husband, Paul, would affect her plans but would not say how so. 

Following the party’s better-than-expected performance in the midterms, causing the GOP to likely only win a narrow majority in the body, some Democrats indicated that Pelosi was in a strong position to decide for herself what to do and that she could continue to lead the caucus if she wished. 

Pelosi ultimately announced during remarks on the House floor that she would not seek another term in leadership but would stay in her House seat representing her district, saying that “there is no greater official honor for me than to stand on this Floor and to speak for the people of San Francisco.” 

Pelosi has been one of the longest-tenured House Speakers in the body’s history and will likely take on a mentorship role for the next generation of Democratic leaders.

House Democrat eyes legislation to bar Trump from office under 14th Amendment

Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) is eyeing legislation that would bar former President Trump from serving in office under the 14th Amendment “for leading an insurrection against the United States.”

Cicilline, who served as an impeachment manager during Trump’s first impeachment, sent a letter to his Democratic colleagues Tuesday night previewing a bill to prevent Trump from holding office and soliciting co-sponsors for the measure.

It is unclear when the congressman plans to introduce the bill. The listed deadline for lawmakers to co-sponsor the measure is Thursday at noon.

The Rhode Island Democrat circulated the letter the same night Trump announced his 2024 campaign for president.

“Given the proof – demonstrated through the January 6th Committee Hearings, the 2021 impeachment trial, and other reporting – that Donald Trump engaged in insurrection on January 6th with the intention of overturning the lawful 2020 election results, I have drafted legislation that would prevent Donald Trump from holding public office again under the Fourteenth Amendment,” Cicilline wrote.

Trump was impeached for a second time in January 2021 on the charge of “incitement of insurrection” following the Capitol riot, but the Senate ultimately acquitted him. The House impeached him for a first time in December 2019 for “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” over revelations regarding his dealings with Ukraine, though the Senate acquitted him of both charges.

Cicilline argued that Trump should be barred from holding office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, known as the “Disqualification Clause,” which says individuals should not be allowed “to hold any office” if they “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

The congressman said his bill “details testimony and evidence demonstrating how Donald Trump engaged in insurrection against the United States,” pointing to revelations from Jan. 6 select committee hearings.

“It specifically details how Donald Trump engaged in insurrection when he helped to plan and encouraged the insurgence on January 6th despite knowing that the election results were lawful; attempted to intimidate state and federal officials when they did not support his false claims and unlawful plans; tried to manipulate Mike Pence into unlawfully refusing to certify the election results, despite Mr. Pence’s and legal advisors’ assertion that he held no such authority; and supported the violent insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, refusing for hours to denounce or act against the mob and putting thousands of lives in danger,” the letter reads.

If he introduces the bill, Cicilline will have to lay out the process for how the measure would use Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the text is vague.

“It is unclear whether Section 3 is self-executing, which, if it is not, would leave federal and state courts or election authorities without power to determine the eligibility of candidates unless Congress enacts legislation to permit it. Courts have produced mixed results on this question,” the CRS report reads.

“Section 3 does not expressly provide a procedure for its implementation other than Section 5’s general authority of Congress ‘to enforce [the Fourteenth Amendment’ by appropriate legislation,’” it adds.

Trump announced his intention for a third presidential bid Tuesday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort, telling the audience at the event "we always have known that this was not the end. It was only the beginning of our fight to rescue the American dream."

"In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States," he added.

Inside McConnell and Murkowski’s battle over Trump’s impeachment

Tensions flared between Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and swing Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) during then-President Trump’s first impeachment trial in the Winter of 2020, according to an exclusively obtained excerpt from a new book.

New revelations about what McConnell did behind the scenes to help Trump during his first impeachment trial shows the minority leader was one of Trump’s most effective Senate allies before their dramatic falling out after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.  

They also show that while McConnell is now supporting Murkowski's re-election bid against a Trump-backed challenger, Kelly Tshibaka, just two years ago the two senators were at loggerheads over how to respond to questions about Trump's conduct and fitness for office.

The forthcoming book, “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump,” reveals that McConnell leaned hard on Murkowski to vote against calling more witnesses at Trump’s impeachment trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.  

Murkowski at the time said publicly she “was disturbed” by McConnell’s pledge to work in “total coordination” with Trump’s legal team and “take my cues from the president’s lawyers.” 

Murkowski saw senators more as members of an impartial jury, not an extension of the defense team, and told a reporter in Alaska shortly before Christmas 2019 that McConnell had “further confused the process.”  

Murkowski’s criticism of McConnell started trending on Twitter. When she woke up the next morning after a late night of wrapping Christmas presents at her cabin outside of Anchorage, she found a “snarky” message from McConnell in her email inbox. 

It was “a missive that would zap all the holiday cheer out of her for two days. The leader was not happy with her comments. And he wanted to talk to her,” longtime Washington reporters Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian write in “Unchecked,” which will go on sale Oct. 18.  

McConnell later tried to mend fences with Murkowski, whom he knew would be a key Republican vote. If she defected, the charges against Trump would have posed a huge political liability for the president and his party heading into the 2020 election.  

After returning to Washington after the recess, McConnell summoned Murkowski to walk over to him on the Senate floor and told her: “You and I are on the same page.” 

He signaled he didn’t have lingering hard feelings by recalling how in the same interview in which Murkowski criticized him, she also criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for rushing the impeachment investigation.  

And he tried to defend his statement that he would coordinate closely with the White House legal team by arguing that Democrats had done the same thing during Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial. 

But it still was a sore subject for Murkowski.  

“Well don’t advertise it!” she had snapped back. 

Bade, the co-author of Politico Playbook, and Demirjian, a member of The Washington Post’s national security team, write that Murkowski also struggled with herself over how to handle the trial, and how to vote on the crucial question of allowing House Democratic prosecutors to call additional witnesses, which would have extended the trial for weeks or even months.

McConnell worked behind the scenes to persuade her not to defect and vote with Democrats.  

He knew he couldn’t bully her so he had to use the tactic he had deployed so effectively over his years as leader to convince wayward Republican colleagues to toe the party line.  

“McConnell never threatened. He never bullied. And though he often left her space to follow her own intuition, he was an expert at laying the guilt on thick and backing her into a corner,” the authors write.  

Murkowski was a critical player in the 2020 impeachment trial because she turned out to be the deciding swing vote on the question of calling more witnesses.

Unlike the vote on convicting the president and removing him from office, which requires two-thirds of the Senate — which was never a real possibility in January of 2020 — the procedural vote on calling more witnesses only needed a simple majority.  

Republicans controlled 53 seats, but moderate Sens. Susan Collins (R), who was up for re-election in Maine, a Democratic-leaning state, and Mitt Romney (R-Utah), an outspoken Trump critic, were expected to vote for additional witnesses. If Murkowski joined them, there would be a 50-50 tie on the question and it would have fallen to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to decide or punt on the crucial question.  

McConnell knew that Murkowski respected Roberts, who was presiding over the Senate trial, and exploited that to his full advantage. He warned that if she voted with Democrats to call witnesses, Roberts would be thrown into a political maelstrom along with other judges who would be forced to rule on Trump’s legal appeals. 

“The most consequential vote during this impeachment is not about whether to convict or acquit,” McConnell told Murkowski carefully, according to the book. “It’s about how to vote on witnesses—and what position that will put the courts in.” 

He told Murkowski that it would be up to her to protect the integrity of the judicial branch and stop what he viewed as a politically motivated impeachment trial from damaging the federal judiciary’s reputation as standing above politics.  

“If you don’t want to do this for the presidency, if you don’t want to do it for the Senate, if you don’t want to do this for 2020 colleagues, do it to save the courts,” he said.  

This and other anecdotes in “Unchecked” are gathered from interviews the authors conducted with the key players in Trump’s impeachment trial. The sources were granted anonymity to protect them from political and personal recriminations.  

Though Murkowski was torn over the question of witnesses, she felt sure that Trump had acted improperly by using his power as president to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on then-former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter on a July phone call.

Yet the Alaska senator thought House Democrats had rushed the impeachment investigation and had dumped an incomplete case in senators’ laps, asking them to finish their work by taking on the burden of fact finding.  

Murkowski wondered why the House had not handled the case with more care and concern. She thought that Democrats were just as guilty of playing politics as her Senate Republican colleagues who reflexively circled around Trump to defend him, even though his conduct raised serious ethical and legal questions.  

“Republican leaders, much to her frustration, were constantly telling their rank and file: ‘You gotta circle. You gotta circle together and protect one another here’ — which meant, of course, circling to protect Trump. Just like musk ox, Murkowski thought,” imagining the hulking creatures, who circle around their young with their horns turned out and their rears tucked in during times of danger, according to “Unchecked.” 

She ultimately decided the House impeachment investigation and Senate trial were flawed, but she felt there wasn’t anything she could do to rectify the situation or alter the outcome that Trump would be acquitted on the final vote.  

She and then-Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the other Republican swing vote, ultimately decided they would not support calling new witnesses, putting the trial on the path for a speedy conclusion and giving McConnell the political win he wanted.  

As Murkowski deliberated over what to do, she concluded: “Republicans were too afraid to actually check this president, and Democrats didn’t really care about putting him away—just about getting impeachment over with and using it to do maximum damage to the GOP in the 2020 election.”

“Because of that, she thought sourly, Trump would get away with everything. And she had no choice but to be complicit,” the authors write.