February 19, 2020
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Susan Collins and Mitt Romney could get their way on Trump impeachment witnesses

J. Scott Applewhite | AP
J. Scott Applewhite | AP
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, arrives Monday as defense arguments by the Republicans resume in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress at the Capitol in Washington.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Happy pigs are better pigs,” said Joe Brown, an Orland farmer raising heritage pigs descended from pigs originally from the Swanville farm of Jerry Ireland, who now faces 13 charges of animal cruelty. “Low-stress pigs is kind of my goal.” 

What we’re watching today

A former Trump adviser’s manuscript may have changed the Republican-led Senate’s calculus on impeachment trial witnesses. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has said from the beginning of the trial that she will likely support witnesses after both sides have made their arguments, but it hasn’t been fully clear which Republicans might join her aside from Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, whom Politico reports is leading a push for witnesses in the Republican conference.

That might be changing after a New York Times story on Sunday night revealed details of former White House national security adviser John Bolton’s book, where he reportedly wrote that President Donald Trump had asked to withhold military aid to Ukraine pending investigations into Democrats. 

Collins said Monday that the report “strengthens the case for witnesses.” A few Republican senators who hadn’t previously spoken publicly in favor of witnesses, such as Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, now seem more open, the Times reported, while others, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee remained noncommittal Monday.

Maine’s junior senator, independent Angus King, was optimistic that enough senators would favor calling witnesses, saying in an interview with NPR on Monday afternoon that he expects five or 10 Republicans to cross the aisle to bring in Bolton. What happens after that and how long the trial could stretch on are unclear.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Maine lawmakers push to clear waitlists for people with intellectual disabilities. The state sees another way.” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “Clearing waitlists for adults with developmental disabilities seeking services in Maine could cost up to $80 million a year, but doing so within the current system is not the path the administration of Gov. Janet Mills wants to take amid a legislative push.”

— “In Maine, Mike Bloomberg says he’ll back Democrat over Susan Collins despite past support,” Jessica Piper, BDN: “Bloomberg, who first won election as New York’s mayor as a Republican in the early 2000s and became a Democrat in 2018, was a supporter of Maine’s Republican senator, giving her maximum donations during her 2008 and 2014 re-election races. After her 2018 vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Collins is one of Democrats’ top targets in 2020.”

— “Regulators will finish their CMP investigation Thursday. Here are 9 things to know,” Josh Keefe BDN: “Earlier this month, the commission staff issued a report with recommendations that the three commissioners will use to inform their Thursday decision. In the report, the staff determined that there is no ‘systemic’ issue with the system that is causing high bills. But despite this finding, the commission staff also recommended the commissioners force CMP to perform additional testing of SmartCare. It’s a finding that has left some customers confused: If the system works, why would it need more testing?”

Democratic groups target Collins on the airwaves

Two Democratic organizations have bought TV ads across the state urging Collins to support witnesses in the impeachment trial. Majority Forward, a dark-money group with ties to Senate Democratic leaders, is spending more than $200,000 in Maine through the first few weeks of February, according to filings with the Federal Communications Commission. It’s part of a five-state push, with the group also targeting senators facing re-election in 2020 in Arizona, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina. A second liberal advocacy group, MoveOn, is spending at least a few thousand dollars to run an ad with similar messaging this week.

High court action

The chief justice of Maine’s high court will address the Legislature on Tuesday ahead of a busy week of confirmation hearing. The speech from Chief Justice Leigh I. Saufley will precede hearings for two Superior Court nominees in the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee — District Court Judge Stephen Nelson of Houlton and Falmouth attorney Thomas McKeon. On Thursday, Mills’ first two high-court nominees — Superior Court Justice Andrew M. Horton and Kennebunk attorney Catherine Connors — will get confirmation hearings Thursday.

The committee today will also preside over active retired justice confirmation hearings for two Maine judges: Roland Cole, who started Maine’s first drug court, and Nancy Mills, who worked to improve how Maine court handle cases involving defendants with mental illness. Both retired in December after around 30 years of service. Here’s your soundtrack.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Jessica Piper and Caitlin Andrews and edited by Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, email clumm@bangordailynews.com (we’re setting up a new subscriber page soon) to subscribe to it via email.

To reach us, do not reply directly to this newsletter, but contact the political team at mshepherd@bangordailynews.com, candrews@bangordailynews.com or jpiper@bangordailynews.com.


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