Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Credit: Al Drago / Pool via AP

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has joined a small group of Republican colleagues in stating opposition to President Donald Trump’s Friday move to commute the prison sentence of longtime friend and political adviser Roger Stone.

Stone, a self-proclaimed “dirty trickster” whose political career dates back to the 1972 presidential campaign of Richard Nixon, was sentenced in February to more than three years in prison for lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing a congressional investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

Stone was supposed to report to federal prison by Tuesday, but Trump commuted his sentence on Friday as the White House criticized the handling of Stone’s case. The move does not wipe away Stone’s conviction, but it vacated his sentence and wiped away probation and a fine.

Since then, Democrats have criticized Trump’s move as an unprecedented example of interference with a case that directly relates to the president. Two Republican senators, Mitt Romney of Utah and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, have joined them.

Collins, a moderate Republican who is up for re-election in a 2020 race that has been targeted by the national political parties and is already the most expensive race in Maine history, joined those senators in a statement to the Bangor Daily News late Monday, noting that Stone’s conviction “still stands.”

“While the President has the authority to commute prison sentences, he should not have done so in this case,” she said.

Collins attracted the biggest challenge of her career after her 2018 vote for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Trump has endorsed her alongside other influential conservatives including former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, though she did not vote for the president in 2016 and has not said whether she will in 2020.

The Kavanaugh vote came after Collins attracted Democratic ire for backing Republicans’ 2017 tax cut plan. She also angered conservatives earlier that year by opposing party bids to repeal the Affordable Care Act earlier that year.

Trump has hammered Republican senators who have criticized or opposed him, he has stayed away from attacking Collins directly as she fights to maintain her seat. He hit Romney and Toomey in a Saturday tweet referring to them as RINOs, or “Republicans in name only.”

House Speaker Sara Gideon of Freeport has consolidated the support of national Democrats in her race against Collins, raising a record $23 million as of late June. She is running in a three-way Tuesday primary against Hallowell lobbyist Betsy Sweet and Saco lawyer Bre Kidman. Conservative Max Linn and former Green Lisa Savage have qualified for the November ballot as independents.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...