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Is This The “Lesson” Senator Collins Hoped Trump Learned? Her Excuse More “Indefensible” Than Ever

Collins Last Week: “I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.”

Collins One Day Later: “It’s more aspirational on my part. It’s more that I hope that he’s listened to the many voices in the Senate who have pointed out that the call was very problematic.”

Collins Today: Acquittal Vote “Wasn’t Based on Predicting His Future Behavior.”

Senator Susan Collins said President Trump had learned a “pretty big lesson” from the impeachment trial, where she voted 12 times with Mitch McConnell to block key witnesses and evidence. Within hours, her explanation had backfired spectacularly and Senator Collins was forced to walk back her claim, saying, actually, it was “more aspirational” than anything else.

Now, as Trump “escalate[s] his campaign of retribution against his perceived impeachment enemies,” Senator Collins is scrambling to walk back that explanation too — directly contradicting herself by arguing that her act of election-year political expediency “wasn’t based on predicting his future behavior.”

Here’s how Senator Collins’ impeachment lesson is playing out:

CNN Analysis: Susan Collins’ defense of her Trump vote just keeps looking worse and worse

  • Eight days removed from Donald Trump’s acquittal on both articles of impeachment, the President is leaning heavily into a revenge tour against his political enemies — an effort that makes Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ claim that Trump had learned his lesson from the impeachment proceedings all the more outlandish.
  • “I don’t know what actions you’re referring to. I’ve made very clear that I don’t think anyone should be retaliated against. That has nothing to do with the basis by which I voted to acquit the President. I voted to acquit the President, as I made very clear to you, Manu, on numerous occasions, because his conduct, while wrong, did not meet the high bar established in the Constitution for the immediate ouster of a duly elected president.”
  • And if you are asking, no, it is not possible that Collins, a United States senator, is somehow unaware of Trump’s actions over the past eight days.
  • What Collins is trying to get out from under — and not succeeding — is the massive political mistake she made when she told O’Donnell that “I believe that the President has learned from this case” and that Trump “will be much more cautious in the future.”
  • When she said that, it was obviously not true. Nothing in Trump’s behavior — either in regard to the impeachment effort or more generally — offered even a shred of evidence to make that claim seem anything but laughable. But now, eight days removed from his impeachment and in the midst of Trump’s reign of revenge, it’s an even more indefensible position.
  • One example: According to The New York Times, a handful of GOP senators — including Collins — tried to convince Trump not to fire Sondland in retribution for his testimony. Trump did it anyway. Lesson learned!
  • Collins was already in the race of her life in Maine this fall. But her lessons learned comment has and will continue to resurface between now and November. And it’s not going to get any easier for Collins to explain it away.

Washington Post: Trump escalates campaign of retribution as Republican senators shrug

  • President Trump escalated his campaign of retribution against his perceived impeachment enemies Tuesday, railing in the Oval Office about a decorated combat veteran who testified about the president’s conduct with Ukraine and suggesting the Defense Department should consider disciplining him.
  • Asked whether he was recommending the military take disciplinary action against Vindman for his House testimony in the impeachment proceedings, Trump replied, “They’re going to certainly, I would imagine, take a look at that.”
  • Trump also leaped to the defense Tuesday of Roger Stone, his longtime former adviser and friend who faces a prison sentence after being convicted by a jury of obstructing Congress and witness tampering in connection with the Russia investigation.
  • Stoking new worries about improperly politicizing the Justice Department, Trump admonished federal prosecutors for recommending a seven- to nine-year sentence for Stone, which the president felt was too long.
  • Trump provided fresh evidence that he feels emboldened and will say and do as he pleases after the Republican-controlled Senate voted last week to acquit him in the impeachment trial.
  • Republicans who control the Senate resigned themselves this week to the reality that they are unable to check or even influence Trump, even as some GOP strategists are warning that the president’s actions threaten the party’s Senate majority by complicating the home-state politics for a quintet of endangered incumbents.
  • One of them, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), said last week that she believed Trump had learned “a pretty big lesson” by being impeached. But this week she said she had been so “concerned” about Trump’s desire to punish two impeachment witnesses, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Vindman, that she contacted the White House.
  • Asked what senators could do to rein in Trump, she replied, “I called to try to prevent the action.”
  • Yet the senator’s call did little to persuade the president. 
  • Democrats have zeroed in on Collins’s claim that Trump had learned a lesson from being impeached, an assessment she later clarified as a “hope” that he would not ask foreign leaders to conduct investigations against his rivals.

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