Politico’s Christian Vasquez reports:
Susan Collins on Saturday became the latest Republican senator to criticize President Donald Trump for calling on foreign countries to investigate a political rival, saying he made a “big mistake.”
“I thought the president made a big mistake by asking China to get involved in investigating a political opponent,” Collins said at a press gaggle in her home state of Maine, according to the Bangor Daily News. “It’s completely inappropriate.”
Collins is the third Republican senator to voice criticism of Trump for the ongoing Ukraine scandal at the heart of the House’s impeachment proceedings, joining Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine regularly appears with Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado on lists of the nation’s most vulnerable incumbent Republican Senators up for re-election in 2020. For Sen. Collins to split from Donald Trump now is a significant development that could presage a wider defection–and a sign that the risk of suffering Trump’s Twitter wrath like Sen. Mitt Romney is today is becoming preferable to staying with the President as the damning disclosures pile up:
In a crude attack against a sitting senator from his own party, Trump tweeted, “Mitt Romney never knew how to win. He is a pompous ‘ass’ who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement for his Senate run (I gave it to him), and when he begged me to be Secretary of State (I didn’t give it to him). He is so bad for R’s!”
Trump’s attack comes as he faces a widening impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives. Most congressional Republicans have remained silent and declined to speak out in opposition to the President’s comments on Thursday that he wants both Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. But Romney criticized the President in a statement Friday, saying, “By all appearances, the President’s brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska’s criticism was somewhat more restrained and politicized that Romney’s, but still identified the heart of the problem:
“Hold up: Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth,” [Pols emphasis] Sasse said in a written statement to The World-Herald. “If the Biden kid broke laws by selling his name to Beijing, that’s a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps.”
Because the basic facts of the case against President Trump for extorting political help from foreign leaders are not in dispute, the war for public opinion–a war being lost by Republicans as polls show rapidly growing support for impeachment–is essentially one of spinning the facts to make what Trump did appear more or less of a crime depending on whose side you’re on. The judgment of legal experts that Trump’s actions are unambiguously criminal is simply ignored by Republicans seeking to “normalize” the situation as they have with so many previous Trump-induced crises.
When does it end? When enough Republican Senators decide it’s time for Trump to go.
And that it what makes the distinction between Susan Collins and Cory Gardner stand out this weekend. Where Sen. Collins sees the oncoming train and is trying to put distance between herself and the wreckage, Gardner is headlining the Trump campaign’s “fall retreat” in New York City. Running for re-election in a state that rejected Trump in 2016 and then punished local Republicans severely in a referendum on Trump in 2018, Gardner’s enduring support for Trump, and refusal to engage on a situation directly relevant to his position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is nothing short of catastrophic politically. By not even appearing to be equivocally concerned as the impeachment crisis deepens, Gardner’s silence makes the choice for him.
Cory Gardner’s going down with the ship.