U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine said Tuesday afternoon that he will vote to convict President Donald Trump on both articles of impeachment, saying the president had abused the power of his office and warning that failing to hold him accountable created a concerning precedent.
King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, had hinted he would vote to remove Trump over the last few weeks, arguing that failing to hold the Republican president accountable would weaken the power of the legislative branch.
Speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday, King said impeachment should not be a mechanism for removing a president over policy disagreements. But he said the evidence was obvious in this case that the president had used the power of his office to advance his own “personal and political interests” and there was little indication he had learned.
“In normal circumstances, the argument of the president’s defenders that impeachment is not necessary because the election is less than a year away would be persuasive. I can understand that,” King said. “But the president in this matter was attempting to undermine that very election and he gives every indication that he will continue to do so.”
The articles of impeachment alleged that Trump abused the power of his office by asking the president of Ukraine for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the leading contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and then obstructed the House’s investigation into his conduct.
King had been critical of the impeachment process as it played out in the Senate, expressing frustration that his Republican colleagues refused to call witnesses to supplement testimony carried over from the House’s investigation. Only two Republicans — Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah — voted in favor of bringing in witnesses last week.
Maine’s junior senator had strong words for the legislative branch on Tuesday, saying that Congress was commiting a “slow-motion institutional suicide” by abdicating power to the president. He said this set a dangerous precedent, adding that “future presidents will be unbound from any restraints on the use of the world’s most powerful political office for their own personal, political gain.”
King’s announcement that he would vote to remove Trump from office came just over an hour after Collins announced she would vote to acquit the president, calling his actions “wrong” but not enough to merit his removal from office. A final Senate vote on both articles will take place Wednesday afternoon, when the Republican-led chamber is expected to acquit Trump.