Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced Tuesday she would be voting to acquit President Donald Trump on both accounts of “abuse of power,” and “obstruction of Congress,” in the final impeachment vote Wednesday.
She characterized Trump’s actions last year related to Ukraine “flawed,” but said she would reject removal from office as the House failed to prove that the president’s conduct was proper grounds for impeachment.
“I do not believe the House has met its burden that the president’s conduct, however flawed, warrants the extreme step of immediate removal from office,” Collins said on the Senate floor. “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.”
Collins, a swing vote on the issue broke with Republicans on Friday with Utah Senator Mitt Romney by joining Democrats in voting to subpoena new witnesses to testify before the upper chamber which would extend the proceedings.
In announcing her decision to vote for acquittal, Collins referenced her vote to acquit President Bill Clinton in 1999 to argue consistency in her position that even if misbehavior is proven in office, it does not always hit the high bar required for removal.
“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 noted. “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.”
Collins added that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to stall the Senate trial undercut Democrats’ claims that Trump was an urgent danger to the republic. Collins also argued that Democrats’ charge for “abuser of power,” “does not even attempt to assert that the president committed a crime.”
“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,” Collins said.
As to the charge for “obstruction of Congress,” Collins labeled it a “dispute over witnesses and documents between legislative and executive branches,” and said it did not meet the standard of a high crime and misdemeanor.
“An objection or privilege asserted by one party cannot be deemed invalid, let alone impeachable, simply because the opposing party disagrees with it,” Collins said.
The moderate Maine senator’s decision Tuesday comes amid questions of not how many Republicans will not flip to join Democrats on the impeachment vote Wednesday but how many Democrats will join Republicans.
Democratic West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin raised speculation Monday that he might vote to acquit Trump when he began urging lawmakers to censure Trump over the president’s dealings with Ukraine rather than impeach, noting that the country has never seen a purely partisan impeachment in its more than 200 year history.
“Removing this president at this time would not only further divide our deeply divided nation, but also further poison our already-toxic political atmosphere,” Manchin argued.
Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, another swing vote in the Senate also announced Monday night that should would not vote to convict Trump based on the evidence before Congress. Murkowski asserted that the voters will decide whether to keep Trump in office in just nine months.