Susan Collins says she is 'open to witnesses' in impeachment trial

By Marianne LeVine
Susan Collins headshot, as US Senator of Maine, graphic element on gray

Sen. Susan Collins said that she is “open to witnesses” in the forthcoming Senate impeachment trial and criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for working closely with the White House.

“I think it's premature to decide who should be called until we see the evidence that is presented and get the answers to the questions that we senators can submit through the Chief Justice to both sides,” Collins told Maine Public Radio on Monday.

The Maine Republican’s remarks on witnesses comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) remain at an impasse over the terms of the Senate impeachment trial. Schumer has called for acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton to testify. Democrats are hoping that Republicans like Collins will back their demands.

But Republicans in recent weeks have favored deciding on witnesses later after the House managers — the lawmakers House Democrats pick to act as prosecutors — and the president present their case.

In the interview, Collins, who is viewed as a possible swing vote in the impeachment trial, also denounced McConnell for saying that he would be in “lockstep with the White House.”

"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 the each of us will take an oath, an oath that I take very seriously to render impartial justice," Collins said.

"I’ve heard the Senate Majority leader saying that he's taking his cues from the White House. There are senators on both sides of the aisle, who, to me, are not giving the appearance of and the reality of judging that's in an impartial way," she added.

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has also recently said she was “disturbed” by McConnell’s statements about coordinating with the White House.

Collins told Maine Public Radio that she has recommended her caucus proceed similarly to the Senate impeachment trial for President Bill Clinton. In 1999, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) reached an agreement about the terms to begin the trial that the Senate unanimously approved.