Collins distances herself from McConnell talk of impeachment coordination with Trump

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Toward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates MORE (R-Maine), a key vote in the upcoming Senate impeachment trial, is distancing herself from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellErnst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Senate braces for fight over impeachment whistleblower testimony Trump declares war on hardworking Americans with new budget request MORE’s (R-Ky.) close coordination with President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau spends millions on ad campaign to mitigate fears on excluded citizenship question Bloomberg campaign: Primary is two-way race with Sanders Democratic senator meets with Iranian foreign minister MORE’s legal team.

Collins, who is seen as the Senate Republican most likely to vote for an article of impeachment, made clear to reporters Monday that she is not in close consultation with the White House like McConnell and other Republicans.

Collins has maintained since the launch of the formal House impeachment inquiry that she takes her role as a juror very seriously and has held back from commenting on various developments out of an abundance of caution.

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She said McConnell’s plan to let Trump’s legal team dictate the Senate GOP’s position on the trial “would not be the approach that I’ve taken.”

“The only people I’ve consulted with thus far are experts from the Congressional Research Service,” she added. “I sat down with them for a session last week.”

The moderate Republican senator made her comments in response to a question about McConnell’s remarks in an interview with Fox News host Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityCarville fires back at Sanders for 'hack' slam: 'At least I'm not a communist' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden leaving New Hampshire early as voting underway Senators, bruised by impeachment, hunt for deals MORE. McConnell told Hannity that he is in lockstep with the White House on trial strategy.

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” he said. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this to the extent that we can.”

Collins also criticized Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerBarr to testify before House Judiciary panel Graham won't call Barr to testify over Roger Stone sentencing recommendation Roger Stone witness alleges Trump targeted prosecutors in 'vile smear job' MORE (D-N.Y.) for writing McConnell a letter on Sunday and then leaking it to the press.

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Schumer is trying to pressure McConnell into calling four additional witnesses. 

Collins called Schumer’s maneuver “unfortunate.”

“It seems to me unfortunate that Sen. Schumer wrote a letter which he released to the press prior to his sitting down and having the kind of discussion with Sen. McConnell” that Senate leaders had ahead of former President Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, she said.

Collins said, “I’m not going to reach a judgment” on the need for witnesses “until I see what the two leaders come up with for a suggestion.”