Murkowski Backs Mattis’s Trump Critique, Questions 2020 Support

(Bloomberg) -- Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski backed former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s scathing critique of President Donald Trump’s response to the protests around the nation and said she’s not sure whether she’ll back him November.

Hours later, he tweeted that he would campaign against her when she’s up for re-election.

Murkowski called Mattis’s words “true and honest and necessary and overdue” and said she was “struggling” with whether to support the president’s re-election, according to a CNN transcript of her remarks to reporters at the Capitol Thursday.

Trump’s response to the protests and violence that followed the death of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of the Minneapolis police has created some unease among Republican lawmakers. It may open the way for more pushback against Trump from members of the GOP, who’ve previously been wary of crossing a president who has had the loyalty of Republican voters.

Separately, in a rare act of defiance of Trump by a senior Republican, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley announced Thursday he would put a hold on two Trump nominees until he gets an answer as required by law for why Trump fired two inspectors general.

“CHECKS&BALANCES,” Grassley tweeted.

Grassley said he will hold up Christopher C. Miller to be director of the National Counterterrorism Center until the White House explains why Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson was terminated. The senator said he’ll also hold up Marshall Billingslea’s nomination to be State Department undersecretary for arms control and international security until he’s given reasons for the firing of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.

Murkowski Backs Mattis’s Trump Critique, Questions 2020 Support

Murkowski, one of the most independent Republicans in the Senate, has long had misgivings about Trump and voted against him in 2016. And she indicated she and others have kept some of their misgivings to themselves.

“When I saw General Mattis’s comments yesterday I felt like perhaps we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally,” she said. “And have the courage of our convictions to speak up.”

Murkowski, who chairs the Senate’s energy panel, said she planned to continue working with the Trump administration and said she felt that the questions of who she will vote for for president are “distracting at the moment.”

On Thursday night, Trump tweeted that “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. She voted against HealthCare, Justice Kavanaugh, and much else.”

He added: “Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!”

But Murkowski is not the only Senate Republican who is conflicted about Trump. Maine Senator Susan Collins has not said whether she voted for Trump in her state’s primary, and Mitt Romney, the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in his impeachment trial, told The Atlantic earlier this year he would probably write in the name of his wife in November, as he did in 2016.

In a sharply worded statement Wednesday, Mattis called Trump “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.”

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