An extraordinarily credulous CNN Supreme Court reporter
In announcing that she would vote against the Senate calling witnesses, Sen. Lisa Murkowski suggested that her decision was made in part to spare Chief Justice John Roberts from having to face a 50-50 tie, allowing him to avoid a legal and political storm.
"It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the chief justice," the Alaska Republican said Friday afternoon.
Her statement appeared to be a direct response to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a Democratic presidential candidate who had essentially forced Roberts to speculate about his credibility on national television.
Warren had submitted a question for the chief to read:
"At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?"
Roberts, as part of his prescribed duties, read Warren's query from the dais. Word for word without expression.
Now it seems Warren's question was part of the reason Murkowski came to a "no" vote.
Murkowski said, "We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another."
"I will not stand for nor support that effort," she said.
Lisa Murkowski would not stand nor support an effort to embarrass Donald Trump and thus incur his wrath and ridicule. She also did not want to displease Mitch McConnell and possibly jeopardize his campaign to load the federal judiciary with right-wing judges. Once she learned that hers would have been the 50th vote to allow witnesses in the Trump impeachment trial, the die was cast.
Still, Murkowski may have been rattled by Warren, who before becoming a US Senator was appointed by President Obama as one of the five members of the board overseeing the the Troubled Asset Relief Program. In September, Politico's Alex Thompson noted that with her monthly mandatory reports
Warren surprised members of her own staff by producing monthly videos of herself explaining each report. She and aides also created a comprehensive website with a regularly updated blog. Commonplace now, these digital tools weren't being used by many members of Congress in 2008....
Her most sensational moments, however, were when grilling (Timothy) Geithner. The new secretary of the Treasury had been president of the New York Federal Reserve in the lead-up to and during the worst of the financial crisis. Obama believed Geithner’s selection would help ensure stability across administrations while the financial system was on the brink of disaster whereas Warren saw it as putting the people who helped create the crisis in charge of solving it.
A former student once dubbed Warren’s teaching method as “Socratic with a machine gun.” In 2009 and 2010, Geithner was at the end of the barrel. Her questioning was so brutal at times that it stunned some of the Republicans on the oversight panel.
This is not a public official who believes in going gently into the good night.
In July 2011, nearly a year after he signed the Dodd-Frank bill and after Warren had spent 10 months standing up the agency in a way that impressed even some critics in the Treasury Department, Obama took the middle ground. With Warren by his side, Obama nominated former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to lead the CFPB. That same day, progressives called on her to run for Senate. Less than a month later, Warren began a “listening tour” in Massachusetts to explore doing so. The field thinned and no other big-name candidate stepped forward to challenge her. She promised she wouldn’t go back to Washington just to be the “100th-in-seniority, be-polite-and-make-no-difference senator from Massachusetts.”
It was always a long shot that Majority Leader McConnell would allow even three members of his caucus to accept witnesses. But given it was a possibility, someone had to fire a warning shot reminding the Chief Justice that the whole world was watching. Even that might not have been enough for him to weigh in to support a fair trial. If Lisa Murkowski wants to pretend that upset her fragile feelings, so be it. She wouldn't be the first public figure to learn that Elizabeth Warren will afflict the comfortable as much as she will comfort the afflicted.