Susan Collins criticized for opposition to Trump verdict

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Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine has openly criticized Trump in the past, but took issue with the prosecution of his hush money case.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Politicians from across New England are reacting after former President Donald Trump was convicted Thursday of falsifying business records to hide a hush money payment to a porn star prior to the 2016 election. While the nature of these responses have largely fallen under predictable partisan lines, a statement from Maine Sen. Susan Collins is drawing a particular amount of ire. 

Collins, a moderate who was one of only seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump on an impeachment charge of inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol after Jan. 6, criticized the prosecution in a statement to The Hill.

The charges were brought “precisely because of who the defendant was rather than because of any specified criminal conduct,” Collins said in the statement.

As recently as late March, Collins told local news station WGME that she would not be voting for Trump in November. That calculus was based on her feelings about Trump’s role in the events of Jan. 6, she said, but clarified that she would also not be supporting President Joe Biden. 

After Trump’s acquittal in 2021, Collins spoke for 16 minutes about why she voted to convict him. Trump abused his power and betrayed his oath of office by resisting the peaceful transfer of power, she said at the time.

Collins’s mixed messaging was the subject of an editorial in The Portland Press Herald Friday. Silence on the hush-money verdict would have been enough for many voters, and others would have liked to see her support the judicial process. Instead, the editorial board wrote, Collins acted in a “shameless” way. 

“Where is the courage needed to stand far apart from the thickening fog of criminality that cloaks Trump, the repeated threats to undermine our country’s institutions, processes, norms? Where is the political fearlessness? Where is the confidence that this editorial board would like to think would be rewarded at the voting booth?” the board wrote. 

In a piece published after the verdict, Esquire writer Charles P. Pierce labeled Collins’s statement the “most nauseating and fascinating reaction of all.” Tom Nichols, staff writer for The Atlantic, decried the erosion of moderate Republican politics in favor of subservience to Trump. Her response was a “good reminder” of why Collins “was the last straw for me to finally leave the GOP,” he wrote on social media.  

Other members of Maine’s congressional delegation criticized Trump and praised the jurors. Sen. Angus King, an independent, emphasized the importance of “remembering our founding principles, including equal justice under the law,” in a statement to The Hill. Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree said on social media that Trump was fairly tried and that the verdict represents “a moment to have some faith in our democracy.”

In Massachusetts, Democrats echoed Pingree. 

Rep. Katherine Clark, the second ranking House Democrat, said that jurors upheld the rule of law and that Americans “deserve so much better” than Trump. 

Rep. Ayanna Pressley said that “accountability is welcome and long overdue,” as Trump has been “defrauding people, exacting harm, and evading legal accountability for decades.”

Rep. Seth Moulton called Thursday “a sad day in American politics,” but said that the verdict is indicative of how a healthy democracy should work. He called on his Republican colleagues to denounce Trump. 

“Patriotism is not pandering to a man who would just as well blow up the foundations of our democracy for personal gain,” he wrote in a statement posted to social media. 

Rep. Richard Neal said that there was “nothing rigged” about the process and that the “judicial system performed the way our founding fathers intended.”

Others kept their statements even more concise. “No one is above the law,” Rep. Lori Trahan said. “Equal justice under law,” Attorney General Andrea Campbell said.  

Sen. Ed Markey simply posted a picture of former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz wearing his number 34 jersey, a cheeky reference to the 34 charges that Trump was found guilty of. 

MassGOP Chair Amy Carnevale, on the other hand, said she was “disheartened by the outcome of his political prosecution.” The verdict “marks a troubling moment for the integrity of the American judicial system,” she added in a statement posted to social media. 

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