Trump responded as he typically does: with a Twitter thread.
“Few people know where they’ll be in two years from now, but I do, in the Great State of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski,” Trump wrote, noting that Murkowski voted against the GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and opposed Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
“Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!” the president concluded.
Trump’s response highlights the main reason the vast majority of Senate Republicans refuse to outwardly condemn his actions and statements, fearful that a presidential tweet could cost them in November.
But if history is any indication, unseating Murkowski could prove difficult. Murkowski, known for her independent streak, won the general election in 2010 as a write-in candidate after losing in the Republican primary to a conservative challenger — an extremely rare feat. Murkowski was appointed to the Senate in 2002 and was first elected to a full six-year term in 2004.
Trump’s posture this week has presented several challenges to Senate Republicans as they seek to distance themselves from his recent actions without provoking a response from him. After protesters were cleared from outside the White House so that Trump could participate in a photo-op on Monday night, several GOP senators came out against the move. They also openly criticized his tone and rhetoric in recent days as protests have engulfed the nation.
But Murkowski was the only Republican senator to fully endorse Mattis’ comments, which focused largely on Trump’s threat to deploy the military to American towns and cities to quell unruly protesters.
The GOP is still largely behind the president, an important barometer for an election year. But Murkowski suggested that the party’s calculus could change.
“I felt like perhaps we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally — and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” she said. “And so, I’m working as one individual to form the right words, knowing that these words really matter. So I appreciate General Mattis’ comments.”
Murkowski also noted that while she did not support Trump in 2016, she wants to maintain a relationship with the Trump White House to deliver resources for her state.
“I work hard to try to make sure that I’m able to represent my state well, that I’m able to work with any administration and any president,” Murkowski said. “He is our duly elected president. I will continue to work with him. I will continue to work with this administration. But I think right now, as we are all struggling to find ways to express the words that need to be expressed appropriately, questions about who I’m going to vote for, not going to vote for, I think are distracting at the moment.”