U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine walked back her comment that President Donald Trump “learned” from impeachment during interviews on Wednesday to say it was “aspirational” after she and fellow Republicans acquitted the president of two impeachment charges.
The result of the Senate trial was hardly in doubt dating back to the beginning of the inquiry in September and ended rather predictably in the Senate on Wednesday, when all Republicans except for Mitt Romney of Utah voted to acquit Trump, while all Democrats voted to convict.
The articles of impeachment from House Democrats stemmed from a July phone call in which Trump asked the Ukraine leader to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat competing for the 2020 nomination to take on Trump. Democrats alleged Trump abused his power with the call and then obstructed a House investigation, while he denied wrongdoing.
Collins, who is facing a challenge from national Democrats in her 2020 re-election bid in a blue-leaning state, was seen as one of only a few potential swing votes on impeachment. She voted with Democrats and Romney last week in a bid to allow witnesses in the Senate trial.
However, she announced on Tuesday that she would vote to acquit Trump on both charges while saying his actions were “improper and demonstrated very poor judgment.” She said Democrats didn’t prove that the president needed to be removed from office and said they should have tested the obstruction argument in court.
In a Tuesday interview with CBS News, Collins said, “I believe that the president has learned from this case,” while disputing Trump’s long-held contention that it was “a perfect call.” He reiterated that when told of Collins’ comments in an off-the-record meeting with news anchors on Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.
In a round of interviews with Maine and national outlets on Wednesday, Collins conceded that she should have used the word “hope” instead of “believe.”
“It’s more aspirational on my part,” she told Fox News on Wednesday night. “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.”
The Tuesday remark and Romney’s move led to new criticism of Collins from opponents on Wednesday. House Speaker Sara Gideon, one of four Democrats running for the 2020 Senate nomination, said Trump demonstrated he “learned nothing.” Former Google executive Ross LaJeunesse, another primary hopeful, said “Mainers deserve better” in a fundraising email.
Collins told Fox News that she and Romney “simply reached different conclusions on the vote” and that political calculations ahead of this year’s race weren’t a factor in the decision.