Collins Calls Trump Conduct ‘Improper’: Impeachment Update

Daniel Flatley and Steven T. Dennis

(Bloomberg) -- Senators will have all day Tuesday to take the floor and explain whether they plan to vote to acquit or convict President Donald Trump when his impeachment trial reaches its final verdict on Wednesday.

Here are the latest developments:

Collins Calls Trump Conduct ‘Improper’ (4:16 p.m.)

Republican Senator Susan Collins said she will vote to acquit Trump on both impeachment articles even though his conduct toward Ukraine’s president on the July 25 call “was improper and demonstrated very poor judgment.”

“It was wrong for President Trump to mention former Vice President Biden on that phone call and it was wrong for him to ask a foreign country to investigate a political rival,” Collins of Maine said on the Senate floor.

She said that while she doesn’t believe a criminal act is required for conviction on impeachment charges, the high bar for removal from office is “perhaps even higher when the impeachment is for a difficult to define, non-criminal act.”

Collins also faulted the House’s investigation, saying the chamber “chose to skip the basic steps” and went straight to impeachment.

“We should entrust to the people the most fundamental decision of a democracy, namely, who should lead their country,” she said.

Paul Asks Question About Whistle-Blower (12:21 p.m.)

GOP Senator Rand Paul asked a question on the Senate floor Tuesday that Chief Justice John Roberts earlier declined to read aloud during the impeachment trial because it included the name of a person reported to be the unidentified whistle-blower whose report started the case against Trump.

He also displayed a large poster containing his question and the person’s name.

“I’m not for retributions on the whistle-blower, I don’t want him to go to jail, I don’t want him to lose his job,“ said Paul of Kentucky. He said “overzealous protection” of the person’s identity means “we don’t get to the root of how this started.”

Roberts to Attend State of the Union Speech (10:41 a.m.)

Chief Justice John Roberts and three other Supreme Court justices will attend Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.

Roberts is also serving as the presiding officer in Trump’s impeachment trial. He will be in the chair Wednesday when the Senate takes its final votes on whether to acquit or convict Trump.

Accompanying Roberts to Tuesday night’s address in the House chamber will be Justice Elena Kagan and Trump’s two appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, Arberg said. Justice Stephen Breyer, who usually attends, was planning to fly from the Caribbean to Washington but contracted flu-like symptoms and was unable to travel, Arberg said.

Roberts in the past has questioned whether the justices should continue attending the annual speech. He likened it to a “political pep rally” in 2010, the year President Barack Obama used the event to criticize the court’s just-released Citizens United campaign finance ruling.

McConnell Urges Senate to Acquit Trump (10:07 a.m.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urged the chamber to acquit Trump in Wednesday’s final vote on the two articles of impeachment.

“Tomorrow the Senate must do what we were created to do,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “We must vote to reject the House’s abuse of power” in bringing what he called a “nonsense impeachment” designed to settle political scores from the 2016 election -- despite criticisms of Trump’s behavior by some Senate Republicans.

“Vote to acquit the president of these charges,” the majority leader said.

“If Washington Democrats have a case to make against the president’s re-election, they should make it,” McConnell said. “They don’t get to rip away the choice from the voters because they’re afraid they might lose again.”

Moments later, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke about the successful effort by Republicans and the president to block evidence and witnesses during the trial.

“They are afraid of the truth,” the Democrat said. “The Republicans refused to get the evidence because they were afraid of what it would show.”

Murkowski Faults Trump, Manchin ‘Struggling’ (6 a.m.)

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said Trump’s conduct in the Ukraine matter was “shameful and wrong,” but she’ll vote to acquit him in part because the House built its case on a “rotted foundation.”

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Monday on the Senate floor that he’s “truly struggling” and undecided on how he’ll vote. He also said Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president “was simply wrong.”

Both senators -- viewed as moderates in their parties -- said they like the idea of censuring the president, a symbolic move that the Republican majority is unlikely to consider.

More senators will take the floor Tuesday and part of Wednesday to explain their views on whether Trump should be removed from office.

While Trump’s acquittal in the 100-member, Republican-controlled chamber is certain, all eyes will be on a few Democrats in addition to Manchin who have said they aren’t decided, including Doug Jones of Alabama and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. A vote for acquittal from any of them would let Trump say his reprieve was bipartisan.

Catch Up on Impeachment Coverage

Key Documents

Here is the House Democrats’ web page containing documents related to the impeachment trial. House Democrats’ impeachment brief is here. Trump’s initial reply is here, and his lawyers’ trial brief is here.The House impeachment resolution is H.Res. 755. The Intelligence Committee Democrats’ impeachment report is here.Gordon Sondland’s transcript is here and here; Kurt Volker’s transcript is here and here. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch’s transcript is here and here; the transcript of Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to the secretary of State, is here. The transcript of David Holmes, a Foreign Service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, is here.The transcript of William Taylor, the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine, is here and here. State Department official George Kent’s testimony is here and here. Testimony by Alexander Vindman can be found here, and the Fiona Hill transcript is here. Laura Cooper’s transcript is here; Christopher Anderson’s is here and Catherine Croft’s is here. Jennifer Williams’ transcript is here and Timothy Morrison’s is here. The Philip Reeker transcript is here. Mark Sandy’s is here.

--With assistance from Greg Stohr, Billy House, Steven T. Dennis and Laura Davison.

To contact the reporters on this story: Daniel Flatley in Washington at dflatley1@bloomberg.net;Steven T. Dennis in Washington at sdennis17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Joe Sobczyk at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net, Laurie Asséo, John Harney

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