WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Sen. Susan Collins is pushing back against critics after statements reported by CNN sparked a political firestorm Wednesday.
The republican senator from Maine is among only a handful of GOP lawmakers who have said they are open to allowing witnesses in Pres. Donald Trump's upcoming impeachment trial.
In an exchange with a CNN correspondent, Collins was reportedly critical of new evidence released by House Democrats.
“I wonder why the House did not put that into the record and it’s only now being revealed,” CNN's Manu Raju said in a tweet, quoting Collins.
Sen. Collins released a statement Thursday evening making clear her position on impeachment proccess:
There has been a lot of mischaracterization and misunderstanding about my position on the process the Senate should follow for the impeachment trial.
Rather than have my position relayed through the interpretation of others, I wanted to state it directly:
- From the outset, I have said that we should follow the model that we used with the Clinton impeachment trial.
- That process provided for the opportunity for both sides to state their case and for Senators to ask questions through the Chief Justice.
- At the conclusion of that phase of the 1999 trial, the Senate voted on a motion to subpoena witnesses and admit additional materials after the case had been heard and the questions had been posed. I voted in favor of that motion subpoenaing witnesses.
- For this trial, as was done in 1999, both sides should have the opportunity to state their case and the Senators should have the opportunity to pose questions. Then, the Senate should have an up-or-down-vote on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents.
- While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999.
- Prior to hearing the statement of the case and the Senators asking questions, I will not support any attempts by either side to subpoena documents or witnesses. Instead, that issue should be addressed at the same point that it was in the 1999 trial.
The materials, shared by now former associate to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, appear to show messages and notes revealing Giuliani's attempts to get Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden.
The records include a letter allegedly written by Guiliani requesting a private meeting with Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to discuss looking into Biden.
Pres. Trump has denied ordering Guiliani to do so.
According to the CNN tweet, the reporter told Sen. Collins that the evidence was just now being released to the public.
“Doesn’t that suggest that the House did an incomplete job, then?," Collins replied.
Several articles, including an OpEd in The Washington Post, were published in response to the statements claiming Collins was changing her position.
A spokesperson for Collins denounced one article claiming Collins 'rejects new evidence after saying she'd welcome it.'
"This is false," Annie Clark tweeted. "Sen. Collins has made clear from the start that she is open to witnesses, documents, and other evidence. The point that she was making is that the House rushed its investigation and thus did not have access to these materials."
Sen. Collins is facing a large amount of pressure nationally and in her home state of Maine as she is in the midst of a re-election campaign.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report ranked the race a 'toss up.'
Activists with the organization 'Common Cause' delivered petitions with more than 700 signatures to Collins's office in Portland Wednesday night.
Those involved said they are 'demanding an honest, thorough and transparent impeachment trial.'
Collins has vowed to be an 'impartial juror' in the proceedings—calling on other senators to follow suit.
"The fact is the Clinton trial was less partisan," Collins told NEWS CENTER Maine. "For example, the two leaders suggested an approach to begin the trial that was approved unanimously. It's hard to imagine that happening with the trial of President Trump."
The trial is expected to get underway next Tuesday.