Reporter’s notebook: Tracking the inscrutable Lisa Murkowski

Sen. Murkowski talks to reporters about the impeachment trial at the U.S. Capitol on Saturday. (Jeff Malet/

Mitt Romney and Susan Collins have been a babbling brook compared to Lisa Murkowski.

The national spotlight has been on these three Republican senators, deemed the most likely to vote for witnesses at the impeachment trial of President Trump.

But Murkowski has been fairly enigmatic this week, and her reserve only intensifies media interest. Journalists swarm her when she comes to the Capitol each day of the impeachment trial.

Murkowski cheerfully tolerated the mob that greeted her Thursday. She answered a question as she breezed through the Senate basement. A huddle of reporters moved with her, pointing cameras and microphones.

The reporters had to stop when they reached a set of stairs.

“There’s no interviewing past here!” a Capitol police office said, enforcing special restrictions in place for the impeachment trial.

I caught up with her again in an elevator.

Does she think it can be a fair trial without witnesses?

“I think that how we define what a fair trial is is important,” she said. “The expectation in most people’s minds is that trial includes witnesses, documents. But in fairness, we have seen some 17-odd witnesses already … .”

Murkowski answered for about a minute, without getting to the question everyone wants to know. So I tried again.

Does she think senators need more evidence of any kind – testimony or documents?

“That is the vote that I’ll have in front of me tomorrow,” she said.

And with that, she smiled and walked into the Senate chamber.

I detected some jest or teasing in that smile. Today, this is what I’ll call a reporting success: Murkowski at least acknowledged she didn’t answer the question. 

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage.

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