Collins crit­i­cizes sen­a­tors for pre­judg­ing the ev­i­dence

Orlando Sentinel - - WALL STREET REPORT - By Emily Cochrane

WASH­ING­TON — Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine, crit­i­cized some of her Se­nate col­leagues, in­clud­ing the ma­jor­ity leader, for ap­pear­ing to “pre­judge the ev­i­dence” in im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, be­com­ing the sec­ond Repub­li­can sen­a­tor to question Sen. Mitch McCon­nell’s pledge to co­or­di­nate with the White House.

Im­peach­ment rules re­quire a sim­ple ma­jor­ity vote, mean­ing McCon­nell, R-Ky., can af­ford to lose only four mem­bers of his con­fer­ence if he is to set the pa­ram­e­ters of a trial. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, an­other mod­er­ate with an in­de­pen­dent streak, said last week that she was “dis­turbed” by McCon­nell’s prom­ise to work with the White House coun­sel to set the terms of the trial.

Both Murkowski and Collins also of­fered non­com­mit­tal po­si­tions on call­ing wit­nesses to an im­peach­ment trial, which Democrats have pushed and McCon­nell has re­sisted. And both women ques­tioned why the House did not go to court when ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials ig­nored sub­poe­nas. (Democrats, who con­trol the House, have as­serted that go­ing to court to com­pel tes­ti­mony from ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials would take too long when the 2020 election is al­ready in dan­ger.)

“It is in­ap­pro­pri­ate, in my judg­ment, for sen­a­tors on either side of the aisle to pre­judge the ev­i­dence be­fore they have heard what is pre­sented to us, be­cause each of us will take an oath, an oath that I take very se­ri­ously, to ren­der im­par­tial jus­tice,” Collins said in an in­ter­view with Maine Pub­lic Ra­dio that was broad­cast Mon­day. “That’s what it says, im­par­tial jus­tice.”

She specif­i­cally ref­er­enced re­marks from McCon­nell, that he would take his cues from the White House, and from Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren, D-Mass., a con­tender for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, who openly sup­ported the im­peach­ment of the pres­i­dent.

“There are sen­a­tors on both sides of the aisle, who, to me, are not giv­ing the ap­pear­ance of and the re­al­ity of judg­ing this in an im­par­tial way,” she said, a sen­ti­ment she echoed in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view with News Cen­ter Maine, a lo­cal tele­vi­sion sta­tion.

With Collins and Murkowski doubt­ing their lead­ers’ ap­proach, scru­tiny will fall on in­de­pen­dent­minded Repub­li­cans such as Sen. Mitt Rom­ney of Utah and re­tir­ing Repub­li­cans such as Sen. La­mar Alexan­der of Ten­nessee, who could force Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic lead­ers to work out the terms of a trial the way they did in 1999 with the im­peach­ment trial of Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton.

An aide to McCon­nell on Tues­day pointed to in­stances dur­ing the Clin­ton im­peach­ment trial in which Clin­ton and his lawyers were in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with Se­nate Democrats over pro­ceed­ings.

Collins, who was in the Se­nate dur­ing that trial, has re­peat­edly re­fused to weigh in on the al­le­ga­tions that Trump abused the power of his of­fice and ob­structed Congress, cit­ing the need to re­main im­par­tial. She told both news out­lets that she had com­piled a thick note­book with doc­u­ments from the last trial and had pressed Se­nate lead­ers to ad­here to the frame­work set in 1999.

Draw­ing on her ex­pe­ri­ence from the Clin­ton trial, Collins also said she was “open” to hear­ing from wit­nesses dur­ing pro­ceed­ings against Trump. Democrats, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the mi­nor­ity leader, have pres­sured McCon­nell to al­low them to call mem­bers of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion to tes­tify in a trial.

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., one of his cau­cus’s most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers, said in an opin­ion ar­ti­cle pub­lished Mon­day in The Wash­ing­ton Post that “for Amer­i­cans to have con­fi­dence in the im­peach­ment process, the Se­nate must con­duct a full, fair and com­plete trial with all rel­e­vant ev­i­dence re­gard­ing the pres­i­dent’s con­duct.”

But while Schumer said in his pro­posal to McCon­nell that the is­sue of wit­nesses and doc­u­ments should be de­ter­mined be­fore the trial be­gins, Collins said that she would pre­fer to wait to de­cide who should be called.

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