In this Jan. 3, 2021, file photo, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and her husband Thomas Daffron remove their face masks as Vice President Mike Pence, not pictured, administers the oath of office during a reenactment ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber at the Capitol in Washington. Credit: Kevin Dietsch / AP

Good morning from Augusta. President Donald Trump will likely be impeached by the Democratic-led House of Representatives today. There are seven days until President-Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I often see the same people who refused any vaccine in the past rolling their sleeves up,” said Charles Ouellette, co-owner of Bangor Drugs, an independent pharmacy supplying vaccines to long-term care facilities. “It’s very encouraging.”

What we’re watching today

It will be a while until Maine’s senior senator tells us what she thinks about impeachment, but a telling Republican permission structure is emerging. Tuesday marked a surprising and late turning point in Trump’s presidency. House Democrats will vote to impeach him today for inciting last week’s Capitol riot with a handful of Republicans — including Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of party leadership — set to join them. 

It also emerged yesterday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, is happy that Democrats are moving on the president for a second time, according to The New York Times. Republicans who lead the chamber — including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — voted against removing the president during the last bid to impeach Trump earlier this year.

As Tuesday began, Republican aides told The Washington Post they doubted enough of their senators would back removing the president, but the moves later in the day from top Republicans may signal intra-party desire to take Trump off the stage in 2024 and beyond. Proceedings in a Senate soon to be controlled by Democrats are likely to stretch into Biden’s term. The ultimate penalty for Trump would be disqualification from federal office — a simple majority vote, but one that Senate precedent places only after a two-thirds vote on removal.

Three of four members of Maine’s delegation — all but Collins — have backed the impeachment effort. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, which Trump twice won, was lambasted by Republicans when he split his votes on impeachment articles in 2019. Prominent Republicans have been silent since he made his stance known on Monday.

Collins’ office has a standard line that it does not comment on impeachment proceedings because of the Senate’s role in voting on removal. But she criticized Trump in telling ways in a Monday OpEd in the Bangor Daily News that seemed to mesh with her stated criteria for removing a president.

The political downside to supporting Trump’s removal seems to be eroding. Ten days ago, Collins was hoping her party retained the Senate majority to continue her trajectory to chair the Senate appropriations panel. Now, the majority is gone and top Republicans want Trump off the stage in 2024 and beyond. While we may not hear it for a while, it’s hard to not see Collins joining them if things keep tracking this way.

The Maine politics top 3

— “Janet Mills signals she will advance older, vulnerable Mainers on vaccine priority list,” Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News: “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced new guidelines Tuesday that encouraged states to move anyone 65 or older as well as those with pre-existing conditions into a current phase reserved largely for health care workers and those working or living in long-term care facilities. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s administration has also promised to release second doses of the vaccines rather than holding them in reserve for the boosters.”

— “Janet Mills’ former adviser says historic tribal act should be ‘annihilated’,” Andrews, BDN: “It is unclear if Mills will replace her, despite tribal advocates saying her role was crucial in maintaining communication with the governor’s office. But in her first interview since leaving office, Loring said she is confident Mills is willing to make strides on sovereignty, despite friction on some issues.”

— “Belfast protesters test the limits of free speech after deadly Capitol riot,” Abigail Curtis, BDN: “But in the wake of last week’s deadly riot at the nation’s Capitol, the lines between First Amendment rights and lawlessness have been blurred across the country. And in Belfast, a coastal city that has long prided itself on being a bastion of free speech, the stakes, and the tensions, about the way people voice their opinions are higher than ever.”

State House locks down after Capitol protests

The events in Washington, D.C., last week have changed the way lawmakers move around the building. The State House was already closed to members of the public, but a memo sent out to lawmakers and legislative staff last Friday by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and Maine House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, details more efforts that effectively bar anyone who does not already have access from entering.

In addition to increased security presence around the Capitol area, the tunnel between the State House and the Burton M. Cross office building is locked except for those with key access. Breaking from normal protocols, officers are now posted at the north and south entrances of the State House, and main doors of the building — where visitors have to go through a metal detector — are now locked. It is not clear if the protocols will continue past Biden’s inauguration.

Today’s Daily Brief was written by Caitlin Andrews and Michael Shepherd. If you’re reading this on the BDN’s website or were forwarded it, you can sign up to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning here.

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.

Michael Shepherd

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...