WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins said she will vote to acquit President Trump on all charges in a speech on the Senate floor Tuesday.
Trump was charged with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for allegedly withholding millions of dollars in federal aid to Ukraine in exchange for its leaders to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.
Collins articulated the severity of her decision but said the president's actions did not reach the "high bar" of impeachment.
"The point is, 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," Collins said.
In her remarks, Collins acknowledged Trump's actions were "improper" and "demonstrated very poor judgment."
"It was wrong for President Trump to mention former Vice President Joe Biden on that phone call, and it was wrong for him to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival," she said.
The state's senior senator was once again vocal about her frustrations with the trial process, particularly when it comes to the level of divisiveness and partisanship throughout the nearly three weeks of proceedings.
"The Founders warned against excessive partisanship," Collins said in her speech. "Fearing it would lead to 'instability, injustice, and confusion, ultimately posing a mortal threat to free government."
Critics have slammed Collins for not fighting harder to ensure witnesses were allowed to testify in the trial.
However, Collins broke from her party voted in favor of allowing witnesses and new evidence. The motion ultimately failed.
Some Democrats claimed Collins sought 'political cover' and was given permission by Republican leadership to do so in order to maintain her moderate status.
Collins denied those allegations in an interview with NEWS CENTER Maine over the weekend.
"I had no meetings with Mitch McConnell on how I was going to vote on witnesses," Collins said. "None. Zero. I think it’s tremendously sexist. After all, I don’t hear anyone on the far left saying that Mitt Romney got a hall pass."
Sen. Collins emphasized how important it was to her that she was one of only a few Republicans to get the vote to allow witnesses and new evidence following opening statements in the trial resolution.
Despite the level of pressure from Republicans and an ongoing reelection campaign, Sen. Collins insisted it would not influence her final decision.
Collins has instead taken aim at the House of Representatives for 'failing' to make a stronger case.
"The House certainly could’ve done much more to present us with a much fuller record. I think it’s disappointing that the House did not pursue its legal remedies, did not push to get the witnesses it really wanted to have," Collins said in that interview.
She reasserted her argument in her speech on the Senate floor.
"The House Judiciary Committee identified in its report crimes that it believed the President committed. Article I, however, does not even attempt to assert that the President committed a crime. I sought to reconcile this contradiction between the report and the Articles in a question I posed to the House Managers, but they failed to address that point in their response.
Independent Sen. Angus King, who has said he is likely to vote 'not guilty' is scheduled to speak at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Senators will be able to cast their final votes on Wednesday afternoon.
SEN. COLLINS' FULL REMARKS:
Madam President, for more than 200 years after our Constitution was adopted, only one President faced an impeachment trial before the United States Senate. That was Andrew Johnson in 1868. But now, we are concluding our second impeachment trial in just 21 years.
While each case must stand on its own facts, this trend reflects the increasingly acrimonious partisanship facing our nation. The Founders warned against excessive partisanship, fearing that it would lead to “instability, injustice, and confusion,” ultimately posing a mortal threat to our free government. To protect against this, the Founders constructed an elaborate system of checks and balances to prevent “factions” from sacrificing “both the public good and the rights of other citizens.”
Impeachment is part of that elaborate system. The Founders set a very high bar for its use, requiring that the President may only be removed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.
The Framers recognized that in removing a sitting President we would be acting against not only the office holder but also the voters who entrusted him with that position.
Thus, the Senate must consider whether misconduct occurred, its nature, and the traumatic and disruptive impact that removing a duly elected President would have on our nation.
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.” The House Managers adopted a similar threshold when they argued that President Trump’s conduct is so dangerous that he “must not remain in power one moment longer.”
The point is, 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. I voted to acquit President Clinton, even though the House Managers proved to my satisfaction that he did commit a crime, because his conduct did not meet that threshold.
I will now discuss each of the Articles.
In its first Article of Impeachment against President Trump, the House asserts that the President abused the power of his presidency. While there are gaps in the record, some key facts are not disputed. It is clear from the July 25, 2019, phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky that the investigation into the Bidens’ activities requested by President Trump was improper and demonstrated very poor judgment.
There is conflicting evidence in the record about the President’s motivation for this improper request. The House Managers stated repeatedly that President Trump’s actions were motivated “solely” for his own political gain in the 2020 campaign, yet the President’s attorneys argued that the President had sound public policy motivations, including a concern about widespread corruption in Ukraine. Regardless, it was wrong for President Trump to mention former Vice President Biden on that phone call, and it was wrong for him to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival.
The House Judiciary Committee identified in its report crimes that it believed the President committed. Article I, however, does not even attempt to assert that the President committed a crime. I sought to reconcile this contradiction between the report and the Articles in a question I posed to the House Managers, but they failed to address that point in their response.
While I do not believe that the conviction of a President 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. In any event, the House did little to support its assertion in Article I that the President “will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office.”
As I concluded in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, I do not believe that the House has met its burden of showing that the President’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.
For all of the reasons I have discussed, I will vote to acquit on Article I.
Article II seeks to have the Senate convict the President based on a dispute over witnesses and documents between the legislative and executive branches. 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.
Before the House even authorized its impeachment inquiry, it issued 23 subpoenas to current and former Administration officials. When the House and the President could not reach an accommodation, the House failed to compel testimony and document production.
The House actually withdrew a subpoena seeking testimony from Dr. Charles Kupperman, a national security aide, once he went to court for guidance. And the House chose not to issue a subpoena to John Bolton, the National Security Advisor whom the House has identified as the key witness.
At a minimum, the House should have pursued the full extent of its own remedies before bringing impeachment charges, including by seeking the assistance of a neutral third party – the Judicial Branch.
In making these choices, the House substituted its own political preference for speed over finality. The House Managers 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.
Therefore, I will vote to acquit on Article II.
Madam President, this decision is not about whether you like or dislike this President – or agree with or oppose his policies – or approve or disapprove of his conduct in other circumstances. Rather, it is about whether the charges meet the very high Constitutional standard of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes or Misdemeanors.”
It has been 230 years since George Washington first took the oath of office, and there are good reasons why during that entire time the Senate has never removed a President. Such a move would not only affect the sitting President but could have unpredictable and potentially adverse consequences for public confidence in our electoral process.
It is my judgment that, except when extraordinary circumstances require a different result, we should entrust to the people the most fundamental decision of a democracy, namely, who should lead their country.