It should be no surprise that Maine’s two senators came down on opposite sides in the impeachment of President Trump.

Republican Susan Collins, along with almost every other member of her party, found the president not guilty of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, voted with every Democrat and one Republican to convict the president and remove him from office.

But it’s worth noting that Collins and King not only reached different conclusions – when they explained their votes they also showed that they disagreed on what they were being asked to do.

According to Collins, Trump’s pressure campaign to get the government of Ukraine involved in the 2020 election was “improper and demonstrated very poor judgment,” but his bad acts did not meet the “very high constitutional standard” that would warrant removal from office.

But King argued that the issue for impeachment was not only about what the president did in the past but also what his behavior reveals about what he’s likely to do next.

“Impeachment is not a punishment, it is prevention, and the only way, unfortunately, to keep an unrepentant president from repeating his wrongful actions is removal.”

King was right – both on his final conclusion and his characterization of what the Senate had to decide.

The senators’ concern should not have been just what Donald Trump did on July 25, 2019, but what he will do tomorrow and the day after that. What did they learn from the investigatory record, and what do they know about Trump’s character that’s relevant to the question of whether he can be trusted with the awesome power of the presidency?

King says the answer is “no,” and the facts of the case brought against Trump back him up.

Collins, strangely, decided that we can trust Trump to change his ways. In a “CBS Evening News” interview, Collins announced, “I believe the president has learned from this case. This president has been impeached. That is a pretty big lesson.”

The allegedly chastened president quickly shot her down. Trump said he would not apologize, as Collins had suggested he should, because he had done nothing wrong, repeating the refrain: “It was a perfect call.”

But, as Collins knows, it was not a perfect call. And the only lesson that this president is likely to learn from this experience is that he can count on Republican senators to make excuses for him whenever he gets caught abusing his power, even if he is doing so in order to cheat in an election. Collins will have to answer for every future act of the president that she has voted to enable.

Collins and other Republicans have said that it’s not the Senate’s job but the voters’ to decide whether Trump belongs in office. That notion was refuted by her colleague Mitt Romney of Utah, who was the only Republican to vote for conviction.

“This verdict is ours to render,” Romney said. “The people will judge us for how well and faithfully we fulfilled our duty.”

Like King’s remarks, Romney was speaking to history as much as he was explaining his vote to his constituents. The record will show that the Senate had a chance to stop a reckless president who recognizes no limits to his power, but too few were willing to stand in his way.

 

 

 


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