Lisa Murkowski says she’s considering quitting Republican Party because of Trump

Lisa Murkowski’s future in the Republican Party is now publicly in question as the Alaska senator says she is grappling with the reality that her party is set to nominate the twice-impeached former president who faces 91 criminal charges for the presidency.

Donald Trump’s continued control of the GOP and the dominance of his Maga faction is not sitting well with the centrist Republican who has broken with her party’s base several times in recent years, including in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump and the 2017 failed vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Ms Murkowski was interviewed by CNN’s Manu Raju on Capitol Hill and said that she wouldn’t be endorsing Mr Trump for president — as most other Republicans on Capitol Hill have already done — in 2024. She further added that she was “independently minded”, and was asked whether that meant she was considering dropping her party affiliation.

"I am navigating my way through some very interesting political times. Let’s just leave it at that," she responded.

Her potential departure from the Republican Party could have a number of consequences, depending on whether she continued to caucus with the GOP in the Senate. Independents in the chamber can choose to caucus with one of the two major parties; Senators Angus King and Bernie Sanders, both officially unaffiliated with the Democratic Party, are members of the Democratic caucus in the upper chamber; so is Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic Party in 2022.

Ms Murkowski would likely remain a viable candidate for office after dropping her party affiliation, something that couldn’t be said for Ms Sinema after her departure from the party.

Unlike her colleague from Arizona, Ms Murkowski hails from a state with a strong tradition of independence from both major parties, though the state trends red in election years. Ms Murkowski is popular in her home state and in the past has fought off conservative challengers to her re-election. Her most recent performance in that regard was in 2022 when she defeated Trump-backed Kelly Tshibaka in the midterm elections that year. She won’t be up for re-election again until 2028.

By contrast, Ms Sinema announced earlier in March that she would not seek re-election in 2024, stating in a video message that she understood Arizonans were not backing her own brand of centrism as polls showed her trailing both Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego and Trump acolyte Kari Lake in polls of the state Senate race.

“I think I’m very independent-minded," Ms Murkowski said on Thursday in her interview with CNN. "I just regret that our party is seemingly becoming a party of Donald Trump."

Mr Trump remains the only Republican candidate vying for the nomination after crossing the threshold of pledged delegates required to win the GOP nomination earlier this month. His last remaining challenger, Nikki Haley, was supported by Ms Murkowski. At the same time, he faces four separate criminal prosecutions with dozens of felony counts; some, in Georgia, carry mandatory prison sentences.

Much of his charges stem from his possibly illegal efforts to overturn the 2020 election after his defeat to Joe Biden. The former president pushed nonsense conspiracies about his loss for months while pressuring GOP officials in states where he was defeated to support false slates of electors with the intent of subverting the actual election results when they were certified by Congress.

The Alaska senator’s remarks are likely to turn eyes on her oft-ally from Maine, Susan Collins. Ms Collins is on the same list of usual suspects when it comes to Republican defections in the Senate and comes from a state with another independent senator (Mr King). Like Ms Murkowski, Ms Collins has not endorsed Donald Trump for the presidency and says she will not do so even now that he is the presumed Republican nominee.