WASHINGTON (CN) — After weeks of keeping her intentions quiet, Senator Susan Collins took to the chamber floor Tuesday afternoon to announce that she will vote to acquit President Donald Trump on the final day of his impeachment trial Wednesday.
“As I concluded in the impeachment trial of President Clinton, 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 in a floor speech Tuesday afternoon.
Senator Mitt Romney and Collins broke rank last week and voted to hear from eyewitnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton. With Collins and Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Lamar Alexander now locked in to acquit Trump, Democrats’ hope for a bipartisan conviction on Wednesday rests on Romney as the last GOP swing vote.
Collins told reporters in the Senate halls after her floor statement that, like Murkowski, she would have considered censuring Trump if the House had pursued it “instead of leaping to impeachment and short cutting the process.”
The moderate Republican also told reporters that she has not spoken with the president about his conduct or her vote to acquit.
Collins was one of a handful of senators whose positions on whether Trump should remain in office were still up in the air late in the day Tuesday.
But from the Senate floor, Collins said the House managers did not prove that Trump only had his re-election in mind when he pushed for Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden.
She later told reporters that there was evidence on both sides that the president’s motives were mixed.
“But what I object to is the president asking for — what I object most to — is the president asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival,” Collins said standing outside the chamber.
Recalling a question she raised to both the House managers and Trump’s attorneys last week, Collins explained that the “high bar” envisioned by the founders rises all the higher when the articles do not charge the president with a crime.
Addressing Article II — the allegation that Trump obstructed Congress with a blanket instruction to administration officials to defy all subpoenas — Collins criticized the House for not taking the battle over impeachment subpoenas to court.
“The fact that it never even issued a subpoena to John Bolton undercut its argument,” Collins added, telling reporters that the House withdrawing a subpoena to the former national security adviser’s deputy, Charles Kupperman, also revealed a rushed process.
The House opted not to issue a subpoena to Bolton after he threatened a lawsuit.
With a Republican majority, the Senate is expected to acquit the president when lawmakers reconvene one last time to serve as both jurors and judges weighing if Trump’s action warrant removal from office.
The pause between closing arguments on Monday and the vote scheduled for Wednesday left a window for senators to take to the podium where most have echoed arguments now familiar after months of impeachment dominating Capitol Hill.
Murkowski made no secret of her plans on Monday night, saying on the Senate floor that she could not vote to convict the president. The reveal followed her key vote last week that defeated a Democrat-led effort to introduce eyewitness testimony from Bolton and others.
Blasting both the House and the Senate for mishandling impeachment, Murkowski was also critical of the president’s conduct in Ukraine.
Echoing Murkowski’s floor statement, Collins said a vote to convict Trump would be “depriving voters have a chance to cast their ballots for him in just nine months.”
From the other side of the aisle, Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is also under scrutiny on the decisive final vote. By virtue of representing a state that overwhelmingly backed Trump in the 2016 election, Manchin is one of a few Democrats who could side with Republicans and acquit the president.
Manchin said in a floor speech Monday he has not yet decided where he will fall but has drafted a censure resolution that would rebuke Trump without removing him from office.
The House charged Trump last year with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Democrats accused Trump of withholding a $391 million military aid package and a coveted White House meeting for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for Ukraine announcing investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and a discredited theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
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