Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a GOP swing-voter in the Senate, said she was not pleased to hear accusations lodged by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who had accused Republicans of “voting for a cover-up” earlier this week during the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, prompting her to submit a note to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
“It reminded me that if we were in a normal debate in the Senate, that the rule would be invoked to strike the words of the senator for impugning another senator,” she told Politico. “So, I did write a note raising the issue of whether there’d been a violation of the rules.”
Nadler, during the first day of arguments, had accused Republicans in the Senate of “voting for a cover-up, voting to deny witnesses, an absolutely indefensible vote, obviously a treacherous vote.” The statement triggered a tense exchange between him and White House lead lawyer Pat Cipollone. It came after senators rejected motions to call witnesses and subpoena evidence on the outset of the trial.
Roberts, in a rare rebuke, admonished both sides at 1 a.m. Wednesday and called on them to show some more respect to the institution.
“I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House managers and the president’s counsel, in equal terms, to remember that they are addressing the world’s greatest deliberative body,” Roberts told the Senate.
Collins noted that the exchange between Nadler and Trump’s legal team came when “everyone was getting very tired,” saying Nadler’s claim of a “cover-up” wouldn’t affect how she voted.
“I’m going to cast my vote regardless of the congressman’s performance,” Collins said. “His negative comments about the Senate will not have any impact.”
Before the trial, Collins said she would be willing to vote to call up witnesses in the trial. However, she said she wanted to follow the trial layout that was proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who had pushed to follow the precedent set during the 1999 impeachment trial of then-President Bill Clinton.
But another senator who has been described as a moderate, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), said she took offense to Nadler’s remark.
“I took it as very offensive,” she told local news outlets on Wednesday. “As one who is listening attentively and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended.”
In a separate interview, Murkowski told CNN on Thursday that she had concerns about the House Democrats’ process during the impeachment inquiry late last year. She questioned why they didn’t try to seek witnesses or documents in their case by seeking a remedy in the courts.
“The House made a decision that they didn’t want to slow things down by having to go through the courts. And yet now they’re basically saying, “You guys gotta go through the courts. We didn’t, but we need you to,’” Murkowski said.
Senate Democrats need four Republicans to join them in a vote to compel witnesses and documents in the case.
The articles of impeachment accuse Trump of abusing his power in his dealings with Ukraine last year and obstructing Congress during an investigation of the allegations.