PHOENIX — Republican Sen. Martha McSally has not been convinced that President Donald Trump should be removed from office, her campaign manager said Monday after a recording surfaced of her suggesting to GOP activists that the president hadn't abused his power.
"Senator McSally takes her role as a juror seriously but hasn't heard anything so far that would lead her to believe impeachment of the president is warranted, let alone removing him from office," campaign manager Dylan Lefler said in a statement to The Associated Press.
Lefler released the statement after the AP obtained a recording of the Arizona senator telling GOP activists over the weekend that she doesn't believe Trump abused his power, ending months of silence from McSally about whether she was troubled by the president's actions.
McSally, who's one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the U.S. Senate, has repeatedly avoided saying whether she thinks it was wrong for Trump to ask Ukraine's government to investigate his political rival.
But she was much more candid when speaking to a supportive audience in Tucson on Saturday, saying only the Democrats have abused their power.
She said Republicans want to "make sure that we continue to highlight the abuse of power" that Democrats have committed, "which is the only abuse of power that we've seen going on here," apparently referring to the impeachment inquiry.
The Democratic-controlled House is nearing a vote on articles of impeachment that accuse Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election and of obstructing Congress by aggressively trying to block the House investigation.
McSally's comments illustrate the thinking of a swing-seat Republican whom Democrats would need to recruit if they hope to reach the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate to remove Trump from office.
She was appointed to the late John McCain's seat after she lost the 2018 election for Arizona's other Senate seat to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. With an abundance of suburbs, where Trump has lost support among women, Arizona is becoming increasingly competitive for Democrats.
McSally revealed her candid thoughts on impeachment in response to a question at a meeting of Legislative District 11 Republicans. In response to reports that Senate Republicans are considering a fast trial without calling witnesses, a man told McSally that he is "on the side of make guys pay for what they've done for the last three years and expose their hypocrisy."
McSally responded that Democrats have looked for reasons to impeach Trump since he was elected and that Republicans are "angry for legitimate reasons." She said Republicans are working through the best way to handle a trial "without inadvertently planting our own landmines and walking into a minefield."
"If we want to drag in some people, some other people may get dragged in, and, you know, we don't know how that's going to go," she said.
Despite her pledge to objectively review the facts, McSally said Republicans are "working closely with the White House" on the process for impeachment, echoing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who said he's taking his "cues" from the White House as he ensures Trump there will not be the 67 votes needed in the Senate to convict the president.
Lefler, McSally's campaign manager, said she'd "fulfill her role as a juror in good faith."
When House Democrats began their impeachment inquiry in September, McSally said they would pay a political price, and she has repeatedly criticized the way they've carried out the investigation. But she's dodged questions from reporters and constituents about whether she was concerned about Trump pressuring foreign countries for investigations, Democrats had cherry-picked information to release and blocked testimony from GOP witnesses.
"When it comes to the Senate, not based on selective leaks or by the liberal media, I am going to do my job and make a decision based on what I know and what is presented to us," McSally said in a telephonic town hall meeting on Nov. 6.