Collins makes it official: Yes, I'll acquit Trump on both charges

Did we really need this floor speech? Since the start of this process her final vote has been as assured as Lindsey Graham’s or Ted Cruz’s. Her electoral position in Maine this fall leaves her no choice but to stay on the right side of her base.

I guess “we” didn’t need the speech but the poor Mainers who don’t follow politics closely were probably misled at some point into believing there was a scintilla of doubt about how she might vote. She’s “independent,” right? She owed them a formal accounting.

She did a reasonably smart job of it. Watch, then read on:

It was shrewd of her to use this opportunity to remind Democrats back home that she voted to acquit Clinton in 1999 too. It’s not that she’s pro-Trump, in other words, it’s that she’s anti-removal. That’ll be a useful rejoinder to her critics on the stump this year. It was also clever of her to note that Pelosi’s long, pointless delay in sending over the articles of impeachment last month undercut the Democratic argument that removing Trump from office was an “urgent” matter needed to protect the integrity of the coming election. House Dems deserve to suffer some political pain for that stupid gambit.

And they know it.

While Ms. Pelosi gets generally good marks from her rank and file, some centrist members now grumble privately that she made some tactical missteps.

Her refusal to send the articles of impeachment to the Senate for several weeks after the House adopted them, which forced a delay in the Senate trial, generated blowback in swing districts, said Democratic lawmakers who insisted on anonymity to speak candidly. They cringed when Ms. Pelosi made a spectacle out of the eventual signing of the articles in January, when she distributed commemorative pens to colleagues. Critics said it undermined her own oft-stated message that this was a “somber” and “prayerful moment” for the country…

Other Democrats have questioned the decision to impeach Mr. Trump without exhausting the House’s legal remedies to compel the testimony of key White House witnesses. Those fights could have taken months, potentially pushing a vote to charge him up against the presidential election, or even beyond.

Collins flags that last idea in her speech too. If Bolton was so important, she asks Democrats, why didn’t you even try to subpoena him? It’s an effective point but one that deliberately overlooks the fact that Trump has been blocking his staffers from testifying for months under the dubious doctrine of “absolute immunity.” And it’s cynical inasmuch as if Pelosi had obeyed Collins and fought a long legal battle to compel Bolton’s testimony, pushing impeachment to the summer or whatever, Collins unquestionably would have turned around then and said we’re waaaaaaaaay too close to an election now to justify removing the president. House Dems were in a Catch-22: Either they could plow ahead and apply pressure on Senate Republicans to call Bolton themselves or they could hang back, duke it out in court, and then wait for Senate Republicans to tell them “Too late.”

It’s also an odd point for Collins to make in the context of explaining her vote to acquit considering that she thought the Senate should call witnesses whom the House didn’t call. In the end her obstacle in getting to hear Bolton wasn’t Pelosi, it was every Republican in the Senate not named “Mitt Romney.”

Where she went off the rails is in a separate interview she did today with CBS, insisting that “I believe that the president has learned from this case… The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.” Pure nonsense, correctly identified as such last night by Schiff in his closing argument, and a claim that may come back to haunt the Republicans like Collins and Joni Ernst and Lamar Alexander who’ve been making it this weak believing that it’s a sop to Democrats. We don’t need to remove him to prevent him from doing this again, they’re saying, because he’s been shamed. Trump has never felt shame in his life, nor to all appearances does he thinks he did a single thing wrong here: PERFECT CALL, NO QUID PRO QUO, READ THE TRANSCRIPT. His fans don’t seem to think so either. Anti-Trumper Joe Walsh was in Iowa last night running against Trump on the Republican side and came away with a hard lesson about where party loyalties lie at a moment when the president is on trial in the Senate for misconduct.

Impeachment appears to have done the president nothing but good. He’s at 94 percent job approval among Republicans and a personal-best 49 percent approval overall in Gallup’s latest. Senate Republicans were afraid to cross him even on the narrow issue of calling witnesses, even with assurances that Hunter Biden would also be called if Democratic witnesses were called. He misidentified Kansas as the home state of the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night and had bootlickers in the party and on Fox News feeling obliged to spin the comment for him somehow. If he pulled the same move with a different foreign leader tomorrow that he pulled with Zelensky, Senate Republicans would either call it “fake news” or insist that we’re close enough to the election to let voters decide and not give it a further thought. Even if Democrats wanted to impeach him again, they know they had only one chance at it and they’ve blown it. They can’t do it again, at least not before the election.

The only “lesson” Trump will learn from this is that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not only would he not lose a single vote, all of the Senate Republicans who witnessed the shooting would either claim that they didn’t see anything or insist that the sonofabitch had it coming. Including Susan Collins. She wouldn’t even censure him for it.

Exit question: Is Romney going to speak today or is he going to keep us in suspense until tomorrow?