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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told reporters on Friday that she is working with a “fairly small group” of fellow Republican senators toward a goal of ensuring witnesses can be called in the chamber’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.
The trial — in which the president is nearly a sure bet to be acquitted in the Republican-led Senate — could start as early as next week as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, indicated on Friday that she will send the House’s two impeachment articles to the upper chamber.
The proceedings are still a high-stakes event for Collins. She is one of national Democrats’ top targets in the 2020 election and voted against her party in 1999 to acquit President Bill Clinton during an impeachment trial. At the same time, she has largely supported the approach of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, on the way to the trial.
The Maine senator has said she’s open to calling witnesses during the trial, while other Republicans have questioned the need for them amid Democratic pressure to allow them. She has also criticized McConnell — who has pledged “total cooperation” with the White House on the trial — and top Democrats for prejudging the trial’s outcome, saying her role is one of a juror.
Speaking to reporters on Friday at the end of a visit to the Fruit Street School in Bangor, Collins said she had been working all week with a “fairly small group” of Republican senators and party leaders to ensure trial rules would allow House impeachment managers and Trump’s lawyers to call witnesses.
Collins declined to say how large the group was, but she said “we should be completely open to calling witnesses.”
“I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement on how to proceed with the trial that will allow the opportunity for both the House and the president’s counsel if they choose to do so,” she said.