Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced on Tuesday that she will vote to acquit President Trump on the two House-passed articles of impeachment.
“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,” Collins said from the Senate floor.
Collins, while saying she would vote to acquit, called Trump’s actions “improper” and said they “demonstrated very poor judgment.” She added that there was “conflicting evidence” about why Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help “look into” former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
“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,” Collins said.
The House voted to impeach Trump on two articles of impeachment: abuse of power in his actions toward Ukraine and obstructing Congress’s investigation into those actions.
Collins told reporters after her speech that she had a “much easier” time making a decision on the second article of impeachment compared to the first article of impeachment.
“On Article Two, I felt the House did not pursue its remedies at all. And the fact that it never even issued a subpoena to John Bolton undercut its argument,” she said, referring to Trump’s former national security adviser.
In regard to the first article, abuse of power, Collins argued that Democrats did “not even attempt to assert that the president committed a crime.”
“While I do not believe that conviction of a president requires a criminal act, the high bar for removal from office is perhaps even higher when impeachment is for a difficult-to-define noncriminal act,” she said.
Collins is one of several senators who have been seen as possible swing votes on Trump’s conviction or acquittal.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), another moderate Republican, announced on Monday that she would vote to acquit. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have not announced their decisions.
Collins is one of 15 senators who were also in the chamber during the 1999 Clinton impeachment trial. She voted at the time to find Clinton not guilty of both charges.
She walked reporters through her process for coming to a decision, saying she reviewed her files from the 1999 trial and the rules resolution for that proceeding; did historical research, including consulting what the Founding Fathers said about “high crimes and misdemeanors”; reread the House transcripts; and consulted with the legal division within the Congressional Research Service.
“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 it did not.”
Collins has been the subject of intense scrutiny during, as well as in the lead up to, Trump’s trial.
Sara Gideon, who is running for the Democratic Senate nomination in Maine, said she believed Trump deserved to be removed from office and that Collins’s decision ties her to Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“Her 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,” Gideon said. “This was not the process that Mainers and Americans deserved, and Senator Collins was complicit in letting that happen.”
Though Collins worked to get language included in the rules resolution that guaranteed a midtrial vote on allowing witnesses or documents, she also voted with her party to reject Democratic efforts to subpoena Bolton, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and others at the outset of the trial.
Collins is one of two GOP senators, the other being Romney, who voted to allow additional witnesses and documents last week. Had the vote been successful, it would have allowed both sides to request specific individuals; the Senate would have then voted on those specific requests.
She and Romney also voted against tabling a last-ditch Democratic request to subpoena Bolton. Collins hadn’t specifically said she would vote to subpoena Bolton, but the vote indicated that she wants to hear from the former administration official.
One idea floated by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) as a next step would be to censure Trump over his actions. But Collins indicated that she believed the president had been reprimanded.
“I considered censure, and if the House had started with a censure resolution instead of leaping to impeachment … it’s something that I would have looked at,” she said.
“At this point the fact is the president has been impeached … and both Republican senators such as myself and Democratic senators have criticized his conduct strikes me as a reprimand,” she said.