Washington: Republican Senator Susan Collins has criticised some of her Senate colleagues, including majority leader Mitch McConnell, for appearing to "prejudge the evidence" in impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.
It makes Collins the second Republican senator to question McConnell's pledge to coordinate with the White House counsel to set the terms of the trial.
Impeachment rules require a simple majority vote, meaning McConnell can afford to lose only four members of his conference if he is to set the parameters of a trial. Senator Lisa Murkowski, another Republican moderate with an independent streak, said last week that she was "disturbed" by McConnell's promise to work with the White House counsel.
Moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins says she takes her role as an impartial juror in the impeachment trial very seriously.Credit:AP
Trump has been impeached by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but a trial must now be held in the Republican-controlled Senate, where the President will be acquitted unless a two-thirds majority of senators vote to convict the President and remove him from office.
Both Murkowski and Collins offered noncommittal positions on whether to call witnesses to an impeachment trial, which Democrats have pushed and McConnell has resisted. And both women questioned why the House did not go to court when administration officials ignored subpoenas. (Democrats, who control the House, have asserted that going to court to compel testimony from administration officials would take too long when the 2020 election is already in danger.)
"It is inappropriate, in my judgment, for senators on either side of the aisle to prejudge the evidence before they have heard what is presented to us, because each of us will take an oath, an oath that I take very seriously, to render impartial justice," Collins said in an interview with Maine Public Radio that was broadcast Monday. "That's what it says: impartial justice."
Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says the Senate majority leader should not be consulting with the White House about the trial.Credit:AP
Collins, who was in the Senate during that trial, has repeatedly refused to weigh in on the allegations that Trump abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress, citing the need to remain impartial. She told both news outlets that she had compiled a thick notebook with documents from the last trial and had pressed Senate leaders to adhere to the framework set in 1999.
Drawing on her experience from the Clinton trial, Collins also said she was "open" to hearing from witnesses during proceedings against Trump. Democrats, led by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, have pressured McConnell to allow them to call members of the Trump administration to testify in a trial.
Democrat Senator Doug Jones, one of his caucus's most vulnerable members, said in an opinion article published on Monday in The Washington Post that "for Americans to have confidence in the impeachment process, the Senate must conduct a full, fair and complete trial with all relevant evidence regarding the president's conduct."
But while Schumer said in his opening proposal to McConnell that the issue of witnesses and documents should be determined before the trial begins, Collins said she would prefer to wait to decide who specifically should be called.
"I think it's premature to decide who should be called until we see the evidence that is presented and get the answers to the questions that we senators can submit through the chief justice to both sides," she told the radio station.
New York Times
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