Republican Sen. Susan Collins announced on Tuesday that she would vote to acquit President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment, despite her reservations about the president’s “wrong” behavior.
Instead of voting to remove the president from office, Collins told reporters after a floor speech that criticism from her and other GOP senators amounted to a sufficient condemnation. Collins, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) have all said that Trump's solicitations of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden were inappropriate but not impeachable.
“If the House had started with a censure resolution instead of leaping to impeachment and short-cutting the process and skipping over judicial adjudication it’s something that I would have looked at,” Collins said. “That both Republican senators such as myself and Democratic senators have criticized his conduct strikes me as a reprimand.”
The Maine moderate has been one of the few swing votes in the trial.
Last week, she joined Democrats in their failed push to hear from more witnesses, namely former national security adviser John Bolton. But earlier in January she voted with Senate Republican leaders on the framework for the trial. That victory for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) paved the way for an successful effort to turn the entire Senate GOP against witnesses, save for Collins and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
After the witness motion was rebuffed, Collins said she concluded she had to vote to acquit Trump. Romney is now the only the Republican considering whether to convict the president of the two impeachment articles.
“I do not believe the House has met its burden of showing that the president's conduct, however, flawed, warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office,” Collins said of the abuse of power charge.
Collins is up for re-election this fall in a state that’s increasingly tilted toward Democrats and was in a no-win position. Though her decision to acquit will infuriate the state’s liberals, voting against Trump would have provoked a sizable backlash from the state’s conservatives.
The issue may end up as the primary wedge issue in her re-election race. Her likely opponent in the general election, Maine statehouse Speaker Sara Gideon, waited until after Collins’ announcement to say she would have voted to remove Trump from office.
“I believe an abuse of power occurred and I would vote to remove the president,” Gideon said. Collins’ “decision to acquit despite the case against the president and without hearing more of the facts again reveals her commitment to standing with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump.”
Collins said that the House chose “speed over finality” in pursuing its evidence and said it was fairly easy to reject the obstruction of Congress impeachment article. But abuse of power was more complicated for her because of the July 25 transcript of Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky in which he asked for a probe into Biden.
She concluded that Trump had a “mixed” motivation in that call, both going after a 2020 challenger but also wanting greater burden sharing among European allies when it came to supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia.
“I was concerned about his mention of the Bidens and I felt that for him to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival was wrong. So from there it became an issue of deciding whether the misconduct that did occur reached the very high bar that the founders established,” she said. “In the end, I felt that it did not.”
Collins also voted to acquit former President Bill Clinton in 1999 on two articles of impeachment.
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