Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, a key swing vote in President Trump’s impeachment trial, announced she would vote to acquit on both articles of impeachment — noting that Democrats’ “abuse of power” charge “did not even attempt” to allege that Trump had committed a crime, and instead constituted a “difficult-to-define, non-criminal act.”
Even as she criticized Trump’s behavior as “flawed,” Collins slammed House Democrats for delaying transmitting the articles of impeachment to the Senate for more than a month, saying the stalling and posturing undercut their arguments that the president was an imminent threat. Last weke, Collins had broken ranks with her fellow Republicans, along with Utah GOP Sen. Mitt Romney, to vote in favor of additional witnesses in the Senate trial.
“In the trial of President Clinton, I argued that in order to convict, we must conclude from the evidence presented to us with no room for doubt that our Constitution will be injured, and our democracy suffer, should the president remain in office one moment more,” Collins said. “Impeachment for a president should be reserved for conduct that poses such a serious threat to our governmental institutions so as to warrant the extreme step of immediate removal for office.
“I voted to acquit President Clinton, even though the House managers proved to my satisfaction that he did commit a crime,” Collins continued, saying that his perjury did not rise to the threshold required for removal from office.
This time around, as before, the House “did little to support its assertion in Article One that the president will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office,” Collins said.
She argued that although a crime is not technically required to impeach and remove a president, Democrats had not come close to arguing that Trump’s conduct was problematic enough to warrant his ouster by the Senate in any event.
At the same time, Collins remarked that it is “clear” that Trump sought an “improper” investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden, but that there is “conflicting” evidence in the record concerning Trump’s motivation.
Nevertheless, “it was wrong for President Trump to mention former Vice President Biden,” on his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s leader, and it was “wrong” for him to suggest Ukraine take a look at Biden’s potential corruption, Collins went on.
Concerning the “obstruction of Congress” charge against Trump, Collins slammed House Democrats for failing to even subpoena former National Security Adviser John Bolton, who they now argue is a key witness.
The Democrats substituted their need for “speed over finality,” Collins said.
Trump, who is set to be overwhelmingly acquitted by the Senate on Wednesday, will deliver the annual State of the Union address before Congress Tuesday night amid record-high approval ratings.
Collins’ remarks came a day after West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate in a pro-Trump state, strongly urged the Senate to consider censuring rather than voting to convict and remove the president.
“Never before in the history of our Republic has there been a purely partisan impeachment vote of a president,” Manchin said. “Removing this president at this time would not only further divide our deeply divided nation, but also further poison our already-toxic political atmosphere.”
But he also strongly condemned Trump: “The president asked a foreign government to intervene in our upcoming election,” Manchin said. “He defied lawful subpoenas from the House of Representatives.”
Murkowski, whose comments closed out a day of debate on the floor over the articles of impeachment, said the “Constitution provides for impeachment but does not demand it in all instances.” While most Republican senators are expected to vote to acquit Trump, Murkowski had been considered a possible vote against the president.
In her floor speech, she said Trump’s “behavior was shameful and wrong” with Ukraine but argued against removing him from office, calling for voters to make a judgment in November’s election.
“The response to the president’s behavior is not to disenfranchise nearly 63 million Americans and remove him from the ballot,” she said. “The House could have pursued censure and not immediately jumped to the remedy of last resort.”
The Alaska senator added: “The voters will pronounce a verdict in nine months and we must trust their judgment.”
Fox News’ Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.