Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) defended her decision to convict former President Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection during an appearance Tuesday on WLOB radio with host Ray Richardson, explaining that she voted to convict Trump not just based on his January 6 speech alone but his “culmination of actions which started even before the election occurred.”
Collins is one of seven GOP senators — including Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Mitt Romney (R-UT) — who sided with Democrats and voted to convict Trump on Saturday. Senators ultimately failed to reach a two-thirds majority to convict, and the GOP lawmakers who sided with Democrats are now facing immense backlash from conservatives in their respective states. The Louisiana GOP quickly censured Cassidy, and the North Carolina GOP followed suit, censuring Burr on Monday. Others, including Romney and Collins, are facing similar actions by their state parties.
Nevertheless, Collins has continued to defend her vote to convict Trump but said that his actions — those she essentially convicted him for — ultimately began before the election even took place. She cited his warnings of the potential of mass election fraud — a concern many voters shared and continue to hold, despite the establishment’s determination to move on:
To me, the key issue is that in our county, the hallmark of our American democracy is the peaceful transfer of power after the voters chose their leader, whether or not we agree with the election results as individuals. And if there’s fraud, if a candidate believes there’s fraud, the candidate — as President Trump did — can go to the courts. And, indeed, he filed some 61 court cases, and each of them was rejected. So what the president did was he sought to prevent the fair counting of the electoral vote on January 6 and that is — and this to me is the key issue — that is a constitutionally mandated process that it sets forth in the 12th Amendment.
“His [Trump’s] culmination of actions, which started even before the election occurred, where he sought to cast doubt on whether or not the election would be fair or tainted by fraud, there was a culmination of statements, tweets, calls to elections officials, pressures on the Georgian secretary of state … pressure on his own vice president,” she continued, contrasting Trump’s conduct with former Vice President Mike Pence’s.
“I think the contrast between the way the president acted and the way his vice president acted is very telling in terms of compliance with the constitution,” she said, concluding that “all of that activity adds up to not following the process that was mandated in the 12th Amendment in trying to stop that count.”
Collins waffled when asked if she personally believes that Trump wanted supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol, instead telling Richardson that Trump “showed a reckless disregard for his actions”:
He told his supporters to march to the Capitol and to hold accountable the members who were there, who were engaged in the process set forth in the 12th Amendment. And one of the disturbing aspects to me is, since the Capitol was breached, he continued to issue tweets against his very loyal, honorable vice president, Mike Pence.
Collins, notably, did not immediately mention Trump’s continued calls for peace on social media.
“And it showed a continued willingness to let the 12th Amendment be stopped by the riot and an indifference to the safety of all the people in the Capitol,” Collins said, adding that Trump should have instead sent help in the form of FBI tactical squads and the National Guard to fortify the “overwhelmed” police force. Instead, she said, Trump issued tweets putting pressure on Pence.
The Maine GOP is considering censuring Collins for her vote to convict Trump. Maine GOP chair Demi Kouzounas acknowledged the mounting concerns among GOP members following Collins’ decision to convict and assured Republicans that they will be “having an open and robust discussion about it as a committee.”
Maine voters reelected Collins to her fifth term in November. The incumbent senator defeated her Democrat challenger Sara Gideon by over eight points.