Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said a stunning statement from former Defense Secretary Jim Mattiswas "true, honest and necessary and overdue," and admitted that she's "struggling" with whether she can continue to support the president.
Murkowski's comments are the strongest so far by a GOP senator regarding the retired four-star Marine Corps general's statement. In his letter, Mattis said the president's reaction to nationwide protests against police brutality shows he "does not even pretend to try" to unite the country, but is instead actively trying to divide it.
Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Murkowski said she thought her Republican colleagues might be reaching a point where they can be "more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally."
"I was really thankful. I thought General Mattis' words were true, and honest, and necessary and overdue," Murkowski said Thursday. "And I have been struggling for the right words, and I was encouraged a couple of nights ago when I was able to read what President Bush had written. And I found that to be empowering for me as one leader."
"But then when I saw General Mattis' 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 continued. "And have the courage of our own convictions to speak up. And so I'm working as one individual to form the right words, knowing that these words really matter."
Asked if she can continue to support the president, the moderate Alaska Republican said she's "struggled" with that for a "long time." Murkowski voted to acquit Mr. Trump in the Senate impeachment trial in February.
"I didn't support the president in the initial election, and 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. He is our duly elected president," she said. "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 or not going to vote for, I think, are distracting at the moment."
Republican Senator Mitt Romney also offered praise for Mattis on Thursday.
"General Mattis' letter was stunning and powerful," the Utah Republican said. "General Mattis is a man of extraordinary sacrifice. He's an American patriot. He's an individual whose judgment I respect, and I think the world of him. If I ever had to choose somebody to be in a foxhole with — it would be with a General Mattis. What a wonderful, wonderful man."
In his statement, Mattis expressed his dismay over the forceful removal of generally peaceful protesters from an area near the White House, the "militarization" of the nation's capital and what he described as a lack of leadership.
Mr. Trump responded to Mattis on Twitter Wednesday night, calling him an "overrated general" and saying he's glad the widely respected general is no longer in the administration.