Susan Collins ups the ante: Yes, it's "likely" that I'll vote to call witnesses

A fateful step. Having raised the hopes of anti-Trumpers back home in Maine this way, she’ll annoy them even more now if she changes her mind and votes not to call anyone. She has to follow through.

Trump fans will be angry, of course, but she has two trump cards (no pun intended) she’ll play for them. One is that she’ll vote to let the president call a witness or two as well. And the second is that she will, in the end, vote to acquit him. She’s trying to walk a tightrope here. Agreeing in principle to call witnesses will steady her balance a little on her left side.

And hey — don’t forget that Collins alone isn’t enough for Schumer to successfully call anyone. Like I said elsewhere today, if Cocaine Mitch can hold 51 Republicans together on witnesses then he can let Collins and Cory Gardner vote however they want and it won’t matter a lick. That’s probably how Collins prefers it, in fact. If she votes to call Bolton and that vote fails, 51/49, she gets the best of both worlds. She can tell Democrats in Maine that she did her best to produce all of the available evidence and, thanks to her caucus, she’ll be spared from having to actually reckon with that evidence in her verdict.

4. For this trial, as was done in 1999, both sides should have the opportunity to state their case and the Senators should have the opportunity to pose questions. Then, the Senate should have an up-or-down-vote on whether to subpoena witnesses and documents.

5. While I need to hear the case argued and the questions answered, I tend to believe having additional information would be helpful. It is likely that I would support a motion to call witnesses at that point in the trial just as I did in 1999

7. I have not made a decision on any particular witnesses. When we reach the appropriate point in the trial, I would like to hear from both sides about which witnesses, if any, they would like to call.

I think the double whammy of John Bolton declaring he’d testify if called and Lev Parnas chattering on TV about how guilty Trump is left her hands tied. She’s willing to acquit Trump no matter what. She’s not willing to make it easy for Democrats to accuse her of participating in a cover-up. Bear in mind, Collins was outraised by her Democratic challenger last summer (the last quarter for which we currently have data) and a new survey from Morning Consult finds her job approval at 42/52. That 52 percent is the highest disapproval rating of anyone in the Senate. She’s 100 out of 100. And Maine is one of the few purple states in 2016 that broke for Hillary over Trump, with Clinton winning by three points. Collins is in real trouble next year.

If you want that state to stay red, which in this case will ultimately be the difference between a vote to acquit Trump and a vote to convict, you need to work with her a little. Let her put on the show she feels she needs to put on to maximize her odds of reelection. In the end she’ll vote with the president, not just on the final verdict but probably on calling Hunter Biden too.

Here’s two clips for you from the 1999 impeachment trial that have been circulating the past few days and will doubtless circulate widely on Maine television if she ends up voting against calling witnesses. She’s in a jam.