BRUNSWICK, Maine — Mainers told Sen. Angus King at a Sunday event that they’ve lost faith in the federal government’s system of checks and balances due to Congress’ handling of the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
“My faith is shaken in the system I’m teaching to my students, the system of checks and balances,” said John Dever, a high school social studies teacher from Bath. “I genuinely believe this is a crisis.”
King held a listening session Sunday afternoon at Bowdoin College to hear constituents’ thoughts on the process surrounding Trump’s impeachment and the Senate’s vote slated for Wednesday.
The session drew so many people that an overflow room was opened so everyone could participate. Brunswick is a largely left-leaning part of the state, and no one spoke in support of Trump or the Republican-led Senate that is likely to acquit him.
King, an independent former two-term Maine governor who caucuses with Democrats, told WCSH on Friday he is likely to vote to remove Trump from office even though the motion is virtually assured to fail in the Republican-led Senate.
King would not say exactly how he would vote on the two articles of impeachment. He said he is worried by the precedent of acquitting Trump on the second article — obstructing Congress ― saying it could allow presidents to stonewall Congress in the future.
He blasted the trial process after all Republicans but Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah voted down a bid to allow new witnesses in the trial later Friday. In a statement, he said it was “an abdication of our responsibilities, an asterisk on these proceedings, and a stain on our institution.”
Collins, a Republican who is up for re-election in 2020 as a top target of Democrats, will be perhaps the most-watched senator during the acquittal vote that is set for Wednesday.
King said Collins made the “right decision on Friday” in voting to allow witnesses, but said he does not know how she will vote Wednesday.
Topping any list of potential witnesses was former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, who roiled proceedings last week when portions of his unreleased manuscript were published by The New York Times that directly related to the articles of impeachment filed by House Democrats against the president for abuse of power and obstructing a congressional investigation.
Bolton alleges Trump told him in August that a hold on military aid to Ukraine was tied to the country launching an investigation into the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination to face Trump, and that the president asked Bolton to call the Ukrainian leader and ask him to meet with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s attorney, on investigating rivals. The president has denied both claims.
Before the Ukraine revelations emerged, King had been reluctant to join members of the Democratic caucus in pushing impeachment. In late 2018, he called himself a “conservative” on the issue. He told CNN in April 2019 that it could strengthen Trump politically.
On Sunday, King said he was unsure how the impeachment would affect Trump politically, saying, “We will find out in November.”
But he said last month that acquitting the president on the abuse of power charge would “be the largest transfer of power from the Congress to the executive [branch] in the history of the country.”
He reiterated that concern Sunday, agreeing with members of the audience who fear the precedent set by allowing Trump to “stonewall Congress” would have lasting impacts on our democracy.
Some attendees brought up the possibility of a bipartisan censure vote on the president if the Senate acquits him. A censure is a formal and public condemnation of the president, though it would not take away any of his power.
“My concern over the Senate’s likely acquittal of the president is that it fails to punish even what some Republican senators have called wrong and inappropriate behavior. Without public condemnation of his actions, he is likely to continue such behavior or do even worse,” said Kelly McDaniel of Portland.
King said he didn’t want to discuss the possibility of a censure until after Wednesday’s vote.
BDN political editor Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.