U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R. ME) has officially kicked off her re-election campaign today. Perfect timing because AlterNet found this old quote from Collins back in 1999 during the Clinton impeachment that puts her at odds with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY):
That’s why new video that’s been unearthed, as reported by the Washington Post, could put her and her party in a difficult position.
The C-SPAN clip from January 27, 1999, shows Collins, a senator even back then, discussing the then-ongoing impeachment of President Bill Clinton.
“I am willing to travel the road wherever it leads, whether it’s to the conviction or the acquittal of the president,” Collins said. “But in order to do that, I need more evidence. I need witnesses and further evidence to guide me to the right destination, to get to the truth.”
She continued: “There is indeed a mountain of evidence. But there is also a record that is replete with conflicting statements, with significant gaps, and with unanswered questions. We need to answer those questions in order to fulfill our duty to do impartial justice. I want to be fair to the president, I want to give him the opportunity to have his lawyers question witnesses if, in fact, we get to that stage.” (Collins eventually voted to acquit Clinton on both articles of impeachment.)
These comments seem to be in tension with th view of Republican Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, who hopes to dismiss the charges against the president as quickly as possible.
“The House chose this road,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday, rejecting Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s request for witnesses at the Senate trial. “It is their duty to investigate. It is their duty to meet the very high bar for undoing a national election. If they fail, they fail. It is not the Senate’s job to leap into the breach and search desperately for ways to get to ‘guilty.’ That would hardly be impartial justice.”
He added: “If House Democrats’ case is this deficient, this thin, the answer is not for the judge and jury to cure it here in the Senate. The answer is that the House should not impeach on this basis in the first place.”
McConnell went on to say that, during the Clinton impeachment, the question of whether to call witnesses was addressed during the trial, not at the start. Clearly, though, he wants to rush through the process and acquit Trump as quickly as possible. Allowing more evidence to be heard that could make Trump look even worse might make McConnell’s task more difficult.
Collins’ previous statements make clear that she thinks it’s appropriate and likely necessary for the Senate to call witnesses. She told the Post in a statement: “I’m not going to make a judgment on the witness issue yet … At the trial of President Clinton, no witnesses testified in person, but the Senate ordered depositions to be taken from three witnesses.”
We need to win a Democratic Senate Majority along with the White House next year and Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Sara Gideon (D. ME), is gearing up to take her down:
Susan Collins just officially announced that she is running for reelection.
Now, we know for sure who our opponent will be. And we know that national Republican donors and special interest groups will be handing over giant checks to fund her reelection efforts. This race is about to heat up fast.
I’m ready, and I know you are too. But how we respond today — in this moment — will determine how the rest of this campaign plays out. That’s why I have to ask:
Control of the Senate is at stake, so Mitch McConnell and big Republican donors will spend whatever it takes to keep this seat for Collins. They’ll try to use their money to stop our momentum.
But I know this grassroots team isn’t going to let that happen.
Let’s do this.