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Collins: Republicans should focus on 'growing the party' rather than on one leader, after vote to convict Trump

“I think that we need to send a message that you can be a good Republican and not necessarily agree with every position taken by the party,” Collins said.

PORTLAND, Maine — Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins is facing backlash and a possible censure from state Republicans over her vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial.

In an interview via Zoom Tuesday with NEWS CENTER Maine’s Pat Callaghan, Collins said the Republicans should instead focus on growing their party and focus on the party’s “guiding principles” rather than on one particular leader.

“I think that we need to send a message that you can be a good Republican and not necessarily agree with every position taken by the party,” Collins said.

Collins was among seven Senate Republicans who voted to convict; two—Richard Burr of North Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana—have already been censured by their states’ Republican parties over their votes.

She said her vote has gotten mixed reactions from Mainers.

“Obviously there have been some Republicans who are very unhappy with my vote and have let me know that as well,” Collins said. “So that's more or less what I would expect on a vote of this consequence. What I just wanted to assure people is that I took it my constitutional duty very seriously. That this came down to my fulfilling my oath to the Constitution, and it was a vote of conscience.”

Republicans across the state are now discussing how to “respond” to her vote. The Maine GOP met Monday night to talk about future plans, including the possibility of censure.

“I do know that a lot of people and are asking the GOP to do something," Helen Tutwiler, chairwoman for the Kennebec County Republican Committee told NEWS CENTER Maine ahead of that meeting. "What exactly that is, I’m not sure.”

Tutwiler said she was personally disappointed in Collins' vote against the former president, but would wait to "hear all sides" before making a final decision.

The Maine GOP has not yet released a formal statement in regards to the vote and refused to comment following Monday night's meeting.

Tutwiler said county leaders were asked to not discuss the issue with the press. 

NEWS CENTER Maine received several emails from angered constituents, including some who threatened to withhold future donations from the Maine GOP if it does not vote to censure, which is a formal statement of disapproval and essentially a public slap on the wrist.

RELATED: Maine GOP to discuss possible censure of Sen. Collins for vote to convict Trump

However, it is unclear just what implications a censure by the 16 county chairs would have given that Collins was just re-elected to the U.S. Senate.

Collins defended her conviction vote on the Senate floor Saturday.

"My vote in this trial stems from my own oath and duty to defend the Constitution of the United States," she said Saturday.

On Tuesday, Collins pointed out that she is “the sole remaining Republican officeholder at the federal level in all of New England.”

“There were 19 when I first started out, and that tells me that we should focus on growing our party. And I think that we need to send a message that you can be a good Republican and not necessarily agree with every position taken by the party,” Collins said. “We need to get back to focusing on the principles that unite Republicans—of individual responsibility and of freedom, and strong national defense, smaller government support for our small businesses, opportunity. Those are guiding principles of our party and I think that's where the focus needs to be rather than on one particular leader.”

"In the end, for me, it came down to the fact that the President did not abide by the 12th Amendment—that he tried to interfere with the counting of the duly certified electoral votes, and the hallmark of our democracy, it's been the peaceful transition of power and to me, that constituted a high crime," Collins said. "In addition, the president's putting pressure on everyone from state officials to the vice president of the United States and his failure to act when the breach of the Capitol occurred were also serious factors."

Democrats were 10 votes shy of the two-thirds majority required for a conviction, but Collins said despite the ultimate acquittal, the trial "sends a strong message that there's no period of time—if you're close to the end of your term, or if you resign—to a try to avoid impeachment that that won't be tolerated." 

She said her takeaway is the hope that she will “never see this situation again.”

“It's important that all of us who swear to protect and defend the Constitution uphold our oath,” she said. “I feel that that's what I did with my vote.”

Collins, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has voiced support for an investigation into the failures leading up to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Watch the full interview here: