BRUNSWICK — A few hundred people packed an auditorium and overflow room at Bowdoin College on Sunday afternoon and expressed sorrow, anger and fear during a “listening session” with U.S. Sen. Angus King on the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.

The crowd at Kresge Auditorium leaned heavily against Trump, whom they accused of seeking to abuse the power of the presidency and expand it beyond the Founding Fathers’ vision. Trump is on trial in the Senate over accusations that he withheld military aid to Ukraine to force the announcement of an investigation that could harm a political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, and obstructed Congress in its probe of the matter. A final vote to acquit the president is expected Wednesday afternoon.

“We don’t need and we don’t want an authoritarian, crony-based oligarchy,” Peter Panagore, a minister from East Boothbay, said during the event. “We don’t want a king.”

King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, has said he “will likely” vote to remove Trump from office. Speaking to reporters after the event, he declined to say precisely how he would vote on each of the two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But King, a lawyer who served two terms as Maine’s governor, did say he thought the second article was more important in the long run.

“Congress has been committing slow-motion suicide for 50 years,” he said, referring to the legislative branch’s steady delegation of its war and trade powers to the executive.

Now, with the Senate likely to acquit Trump, King fears that the president’s refusal to cooperate with investigations will become a precedent, and that impeachment will no longer be a meaningful check on any president.

Nearly all attendees on Sunday appeared to oppose Trump, save one man who raised questions about the House Democrats’ investigative process and who repeated a debunked conspiracy theory about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. He declined to give his name.

Impeachment has put considerable pressure on Maine’s Republican senior senator, Susan Collins, who voted against her party Friday on a failed motion to subpoena more witnesses in the Senate trial.

Collins, who is running for re-election this year, spent the weekend working on the impeachment case, her spokeswoman, Annie Clark, said on Sunday.

“She reviewed her notes and the record, had numerous conversations with colleagues, constituents, friends, and advisors about the proceedings, and did in-person and phone interviews with the Maine press,” Clark said in an email.

Clark declined to say whether Collins was leaning toward acquitting or convicting Trump, adding that the senator wouldn’t make public statements on the matter until after closing arguments on Monday.

Some Mainers at Sunday’s event said they were simply overwhelmed by the stress of the impeachment process.

“I feel hopeless,” Nora Bishop of Bowdoinham told King. “I don’t really have a question, but when I feel hopeless for the country, as I do now, I maybe go read Jon Meacham” – a well-known presidential biographer – “or I listen to you.”

In a call for unity amid the divisiveness of the moment, Bishop went on to quote President Abraham Lincoln, whom King himself had cited from memory several times during the event.

“I am loath to close,” she said, quoting the end of Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained …”

She paused, and King finished for her: “It must not break our bonds of affection.”

They kept reciting together.

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”


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