She will say she tried her best.

She’ll note that she voted for witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump, but that vote fell short.

Then, when the final impeachment vote comes on Wednesday afternoon, expect Maine Sen. Susan Collins to fall back into the Republican line and vote to acquit.

Why? Because, you know, she needed more information from those who actually watched Trump make a mockery of the Oval Office. Witnesses who were blocked from testifying by Trump and his minions on Capitol Hill.

Buttressed by pages upon pages of detailed notes, Collins’ defense will all sound so logical, so well thought out. When it was all said and done, the reasoning will go, what else could she do?

Here’s what: Right now, Collins could do the same thing she did three and a half years ago, when Donald Trump was still just a candidate and few people dreamed that he’d ever darken the threshold of the White House.

Back then, she spoke up. Loudly and clearly.

She denounced the man for who he is and what he stands for.

She demonstrated integrity.

On Friday, as Trump’s impeachment trial roller-coasted toward its inevitable conclusion, I called up the Washington Post op-ed Collins wrote on Aug. 6, 2016, under the headline “Why I Cannot Support Trump.”

It’s a remarkable piece of writing. And now, as Trump shakes off impeachment and looks ahead to another election, Collins’ statement of conscience bears revisiting – if only to show that while Trump hasn’t changed, the senior senator from Maine most certainly has.

“With the passage of time, I have become increasingly dismayed by his constant stream of cruel comments and his inability to admit error or apologize,” Collins wrote of Trump. “But it was his attacks directed at people who could not respond on an equal footing – either because they do not share his power or stature or because professional responsibility precluded them from engaging at such a level – that revealed Mr. Trump as unworthy of being our president.”

Former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch comes to mind. Even as she testified to the House Intelligence Committee in November about her unceremonious ouster on the cusp of the Ukraine scandal, Trump took to Twitter to heckle her in real time, prompting the committee chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to ask what effect Trump’s bullying could have on “other witnesses’ willingness to come forward and expose wrongdoing.”

“It’s very intimidating,” a visibly uncomfortable Yovanovitch replied.

What say you now, Sen. Collins?

In her op-ed, Collins also stated: “My conclusion about Mr. Trump’s unsuitability for office is based on his disregard for the precept of treating others with respect, an idea that should transcend politics. Instead, he opts to mock the vulnerable and inflame prejudices by attacking ethnic and religious minorities.”

She cited three examples: A New York Times reporter whose disability Trump once mimicked, a federal judge who Trump said could not fairly decide a case because of the judge’s Mexican heritage, and the Muslim family of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq.

In all three cases, Collins wrote, she hoped Trump would apologize, admit that he was wrong. He didn’t. In fact, he would go on to call victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico “politically motivated ingrates,” decry immigrants coming to the United States from “s***hole countries,” and fire off countless other invectives on virtually a daily basis.

What say you now, Sen. Collins?

Back then, Collins worried that Trump’s “lack of self-restraint and his barrage of ill-informed comments would make an already perilous world even more so. It is reckless for a presidential candidate to publicly raise doubts about honoring treaty commitments with our allies. Mr. Trump’s tendency to lash out when challenged further escalates the possibility of disputes spinning dangerously out of control.”

She was right. Trump went on to arbitrarily withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Iran nuclear treaty. Just last month, his impulsive assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani came perilously close to spawning all-out war in the Middle East.

What say you now, Sen. Collins?

As the country geared up for the 2016 general election, Collins wrote that she’d hoped for a “new” Donald Trump, “one who would focus on jobs and the economy, tone down his rhetoric, develop more thoughtful policies and, yes, apologize for ill-tempered rants.”

Again, she proved prescient: “But the unpleasant reality that I have had to accept is that there will be no ‘new’ Donald Trump, just the same candidate who will slash and burn and trample anything and anyone he perceives as being in his way or an easy scapegoat. Regrettably, his essential character appears to be fixed, and he seems incapable of change or growth.”

That, of course, was long before Trump called House Intelligence Committee Chairman Schiff “pencil neck,” told Russian diplomats that former FBI Director James Comey was a “nut job” and called various women “fat pig,” “slob,” “dog” and “horseface.”

What say you now, Sen. Collins?

Long proud of her Republican heritage – she called it “part of what defines me as a person” – Collins wrote that some might consider her duty-bound to support her party’s presidential nominee. But, she countered, “It is because of Mr. Trump’s inability and unwillingness to honor that legacy that I am unable to support his candidacy.”

And now? As the Senate makes history before our eyes, we find Collins studiously riveted to the process, hiding behind her faux-obligation as a “juror” to avoid having to state the obvious once again.

Donald Trump is indeed “unworthy of being our president,” as Collins put it so long ago. He not only solicited a foreign government to dig up dirt on his political rival, but also upped the pressure on Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky by withholding $391 million in desperately needed military aid.

Last week, Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz had the temerity to say that as long as Trump thought his re-election is in the public interest, he can engage in such behavior without consequence. Around the same time, more than a few Republicans said the president’s transgressions simply don’t rise to the level of impeachment.

Susan Collins knows better than that. She knows the kind of man Donald J. Trump truly is. She knows that now more than ever, he’s unfit to occupy the most powerful office in the land.

But times have changed. The man she criticized so roundly back then is the same man who can take a flamethrower to her political future now.

So, come Wednesday and the final impeachment vote, look for Collins to express her deep concern at how nasty everyone has become, wring her hands over how difficult her life has grown and then, ever loyal to a party that now devours those who dissent, vote to let Trump off the hook. Or maybe vote “present” in the hope it will satisfy both ends of her ever-shrinking base.

It won’t. And long after this national trauma passes into history, Maine’s Susan Collins will be forever remembered not for her courage, but for her capitulation.


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