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Sen. Collins On Her Decision To Vote For Acquittal And What She Is Hearing From Constituents

J. Scott Applewhite
In this Feb. 5, 2020 photo, Collins is joined by other GOP lawmakers as she arrives for the State of the Union speech by President Trump, at the Capitol in Washington.

The Impeachment drama has continued right up to the actual Senate votes to acquit President Donald Trump.

Maine Public Radio Senior Political Reporter Mal Leary spoke Wednesday afternoon before the vote with Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins about her decision to acquit the President on both charges and about what she has been hearing from constituents. 

Collins: It has been mixed, but the calls to my six state offices as of this morning, which was the last time that I checked in with them, was about two-thirds in favor, one-third against.

Leary: Is it pretty much what you expected when you made your speech, that you'd get that kind of response?

Collins: I wasn't really sure how it would break down. I just knew that I had to do what I thought was right. But obviously, I was interested in what the calls were. The calls to my Washington office were overwhelmingly from out-of-state and not from Maine, but the calls to my state offices were primarily constituents.

You said you thought the president had learned a lesson from all of this, but it wasn't a couple hours later that he was tweeting, 'oh, no, my phone call was perfect.' How does that make you feel? Because, clearly, you thought he had learned a lesson and he's saying, what are you talking about?

Well, his phone call was very far from perfect. And, in retrospect, I should have said that I hope he has learned a lesson. I would have thought that he would. After all, he had previously said that he did not like having been impeached being on his resumé, I think was the term that he used. And the fact is that history will record that he was impeached, and that many of us in the Senate said on the record that we felt that his call was wrong, that it was improper, that it was inappropriate, and he should not have done it.

You also hoped he would apologize for what he had done. And yet that was also absolutely rejected by the President.

Yes, I did say in that case, I said that I thought he should apologize. And I still do. It took President Clinton a long time before he apologized for his misconduct, but he finally did. As you know, I voted to acquit President Clinton, as well as voting to acquit President Trump, because I felt in both cases the evidence did not meet the high bar set by the Constitution of high crimes or misdemeanors or treason or bribery. That's the standard that had to be met. And I felt that the House did not prove that case.

What are your thoughts on Senator Romney's decision to do just the opposite? Where he is voting to convict the President, saying that as he looked at the evidence that he had, the President should be removed from office.

Mitt Romney has decided to split his verdict, that he is rejecting the second article and will not vote to convict on the second article, but is voting to convict on Article 1. I've worked very closely with Mitt Romney on the witness issue to get the initial language, guaranteeing a vote on witnesses, into the resolution, setting forth the schedule for the trial. And we were the two Republican senators, regrettably, the only two, who wanted a limited number of additional witnesses called to supplement the witness testimony that the House had gathered. We reached different conclusions on Article 1. I respect Mitt, but I disagree with his conclusion.

How do you think this is going to affect your reelection, since obviously this issue has generated an incredible amount of interest across the country?

This is not an issue where I apply some sort of political calculus. I've cast more than 7,000 votes in the Senate, and I don't let people tell me how to vote. And I make my own decisions, regardless of the political consequences. I can only hope that the voters know that I took this very seriously, and that I did what I thought was right, even if they disagree with my ultimate decision.

Senator, thank you very much for taking some time to talk with us.

Thank you, Mal.

Ed note: the transcript of this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Journalist Mal Leary spearheads Maine Public's news coverage of politics and government and is based at the State House.