Throughout President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, Republican Sen. Susan Collins (ME) was among a handful of lawmakers seen as potential swing votes — that is, GOP senators who may have voted to convict Trump. But ahead of the Senate’s Wednesday vote, Collins made her decision clear.
The Maine Republican said Tuesday that House Democrats failed to make a case that Trump’s actions were so egregious that they warranted his removal, adding that she would vote to acquit the president of both charges, Fox News reported. The Senate ultimately acquitted Trump Wednesday in a vote that came largely along party lines.
Collins reveals her position
Given the fact that Collins has never been a real fan of President Trump, and has a history of crossing the aisle and joining with Democrats on various issues, there was a legitimate concern among Republicans that Collins would defect on impeachment — particularly after she joined Democrats in calling for additional documents and witnesses in the early stages of the trial.
Those fears were allayed by Collins’ speech on Tuesday, however. Even though she was critical of the president’s actions with regard to Ukraine, she also expressed those same sentiments toward House managers, who, in her view, not only failed to make a case that Trump’s conduct rose to the level of impeachment, but also failed to prove that Trump did anything wrong at all.
“Impeachment of a president should be reserved for conduct that poses such a serious threat to our governmental institutions as to warrant the extreme step of immediate removal from office,” she said. “I voted to acquit President [Bill] Clinton, even though the House [m]anagers proved to my satisfaction that he did commit a crime, because his conduct did not meet that threshold.”
A “difficult-to-define noncriminal act”
Collins went on to discuss the individual articles passed by House Dems against Trump, including their first, abuse of power, which she said “does not even attempt to assert that the [p]resident committed a crime. I sought to reconcile this contradiction between the report and the Articles in a question I posed to the House [m]anagers, but they failed to address that point in their response,” she noted.
“While I do not believe that the conviction of a [p]resident requires a criminal act, the high bar for removal from office is perhaps even higher when the impeachment is for a difficult-to-define noncriminal act,” Collins continued. “In any event, the House did little to support its assertion in Article I that the [p]resident ‘will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.’”
Alluding to her similar decision during Clinton’s trial in the late 1990s, Collins went on: “I do not believe that the House has met its burden of showing that the [p]resident’s conduct — however flawed — warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office. Nor does the record support the assertion by the House Managers that the President must not remain in office one moment longer. The fact that the House delayed transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for 33 days undercuts this argument.”
Not even impeachable
As for the second article, on obstruction of Congress, Collins said that “as a general principle, an objection or privilege asserted by one party cannot be deemed invalid — let alone impeachable — simply because the opposing party disagrees with it.”
She went on to note the deficiencies in the attempts made by the House to issue subpoenas against the White House, both in terms of the initial lack of authorization and the failure to pursue the matter in court, as would normally be done in such an instance.
“In making these choices, the House substituted its own political preference for speed over finality. The House [m]anagers described impeachment as a ‘last resort’ for the Congress. In this case, however, the House chose to skip the basic steps of judicial adjudication and instead leapt straight to impeachment as the first resort,” Collins said.
In light of all of that, the senator decided that she had no real choice but to vote against both articles and in favor of the president’s acquittal. How that plays with voters — and whether it has a discernible impact on her re-election chances — remains to be seen.