A Republican senator is “likely” to side with Democrats in the battle over impeachment witnesses.
Susan Collins (R-ME) said Thursday that she would “likely” vote in support of allowing additional witnesses to testify in President Donald Trump’s Senate trial when the time comes, The Hill reported. Collins is part of a group of moderate Republicans who are being closely watched as the trial gets underway.
“While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful,” Collins said in a statement released Thursday. “It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.”
Turning on Trump?
The Republican-led Senate is expected to acquit Trump in the coming weeks, but the shape and length of the trial in Congress’ upper chamber remain clouded in uncertainty amid an ongoing fight over witnesses. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) maintains that he has enough votes to shut down the Democrats’ demands for more testimony, but Collins and a handful of other Republicans have been showing signs of wavering.
In her statement Thursday, Collins said the trial ought to follow the model of President Bill Clinton’s 1999 impeachment — as McConnell has recommended — in which a vote on witnesses was taken after opening arguments were made. But the senator wouldn’t say who she would support calling to testify.
“I have not made a decision on any particular witnesses,” Collins wrote, according to Fox. “When we reach the appropriate point in the trial, I would like to hear from both sides about which witnesses, if any, they would like to call.”
“My colleagues can’t have it both ways”
Democrats are seeking testimony from John Bolton — Trump’s former National Security adviser — as well as a handful of other Trump administration officials. Meanwhile, some Republicans, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), have ramped up threats to call witnesses sought by President Trump, like Hunter Biden, if Republican moderates help Democrats in their push for more testimony.
“My colleagues can’t have it both ways. Calling for some, while blocking others,” Paul tweeted Tuesday, according to The Hill. “If we are going to give a platform to witnesses the Dems demand, I look forward to forcing votes to call Hunter Biden and many more!”
For their part, Democrats maintain that Republicans, who are seeking a fast trial, are trying to “cover up” incriminating testimony out of fear that it will implicate Trump in vague crimes involving Ukraine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that Trump is “impeached forever” no matter what happens, according to Fox News, and her party has tried to frame a vote against more witnesses as a permanent stain on Republican allies seeking to quickly exonerate him.
But Republicans have fired back that Democrats never finished their investigation in the House — making the vote to impeach Trump rushed and premature — and that Dems are trying to place the burden on Republicans to complete the record. Democrats never subpoenaed Bolton in the House, for example, fearing a lengthy court battle, but they went on to delay impeachment for a month, undercutting the impression of “urgency” they sought to create.
It’s not over yet
Democrats voted to send articles of impeachment to the Senate this week, and as the trial begins, Dems and the media have hyped up new “bombshells” that they insist shed new light on Trump’s actions toward Ukraine. But Republicans — Collins included — have questioned their relevance.
The senator sparked backlash Wednesday when she seemed to downplay the importance of new documents and claims from Lev Parnas, a Ukrainian associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani. “Doesn’t that suggest that the House did an incomplete job, then?” Collins asked reporters, according to The Hill.
Republicans have also dismissed a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) claiming that Trump broke the law by withholding military aid to Ukraine.
But in the end, it will all come down to the trial in the Senate, which will continue Tuesday afternoon. The question now is whether Collins will join the president’s open enemies, like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), or reject this partisan railroad job.