On Tuesday, Maine senator Susan Collins, one of the possible but unlikely Republican swing votes in the Senate impeachment trial, announced she would vote to acquit President Trump. Rather than state the Realpolitik answer for her vote — that impeaching the president would be bad for the GOP — Collins went either the exceedingly optimistic or exceptionally cynical route, telling the CBS Evening News she believes Trump will change his ways after his inevitable acquittal in the Senate. “I believe that the president has learned from this case,” Collins told anchor Norah O’Donnell on Tuesday. “The president has been impeached. That’s a pretty big lesson.”
A “pretty big lesson” is what a child learns after dropping a full soda on the carpet and being forced to spend a half-hour cleaning it up. That the impeachment process would impart on Trump even that small takeaway is generous, considering his past responses to formal and informal rebukes have been to completely spurn any sense of responsibility. It also ignores Trump’s comment from December stating exactly the opposite: The day before the House voted to impeach him on one count of abuse of power and one count of obstruction of Congress, Trump told reporters he didn’t feel the need to take responsibility for his attempt to solicit foreign interference in an American election. “No, I don’t take any. Zero, to put it mildly,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.
In case his inability to process his own actions wasn’t clear, during an earlier threat to his presidency, Trump claimed “total exoneration” from the Mueller investigation, though the actual report detailed the exact opposite outcome. As if those denials weren’t enough, there are the multiple statements positing something loosely resembling a Trump doctrine: The president has repeatedly said the Constitution gives him a blanket “right to do whatever I want.” Being acquitted on a party-line vote will all but enshrine that right in Trump’s mind for the remainder of his presidency.
It isn’t the first time Collins has shaped up to her party’s expectations with a statement that does not mesh with reality. A swing vote during the nomination process of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, Collins ultimately advanced the judge, suggesting that Christine Blasey Ford’s credible allegation of sexual assault could have been a case of mistaken identity, while stating that she believed Kavanaugh would respect Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. Less than six months later, Kavanaugh began to attack the precedent.
On Wednesday, Collins walked back the statement without changing its sentiment, amidst reports that the president is currently withholding aid for clean energy projects he does not approve of:
This post has been updated.