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EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Susan Collins calls critic's claims 'sexist,' says 'I don't run my votes by anybody'

Maine's senior Senator told NEWS CENTER Maine she is disappointed by the failed witness vote and the divisiveness that surrounded it.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Maine Sen. Susan Collins sat in her Washington office this weekend with her husband and their dog, Pepper.

Despite looking over nearly 200 pages of notes she scratched onto legal pads from the Senate floor, it was the first break she had from the chaos of the impeachment trial in two weeks.

Collins stayed in Washington instead of going home to Maine because she said there were several active threats against her. 

One prompted the lock down of at least 10 Maine high schools Friday. She said someone threatened  'active shootings' if she voted to acquit the President. 

RELATED: Sen. Collins confirms school threats; FBI and state police investigating

Collins told NEWS CENTER Maine she is 'disappointed' —by the divisiveness and her fellow senators' failure to pass a motion that would have allowed more evidence and witnesses in Pres. Trump's trial. 

The motion was killed along party lines 51-49. 

Sen. Collins and Sen. Mitt Romney were just two Republicans to vote for the measure they both worked to have included in the trial resolution. 

Independents, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Maine Sen. Angus King, also voted 'yes.'

Credit: NCM

Here are some highlights from our interview with Sen. Collins:

Q: Going into week three of the Impeachment trial of President Trump, what are your thoughts on how things have happened so far?

A: Well it has certainly been a very difficult and interesting trial. I think that both sides presented a lot of information for the Senate to consider. I’m disappointed that the votes were not there to call a limited number of witnesses. I think that might’ve helped clear up some ambiguities, fill in some gaps and assisted presenting a fuller and fair trial, but — having said that, we still have the benefit of more than 17 witnesses more than 27,000 pages of documents and transcripts and we have presentations by very articulate members of the House and attorneys for the President.

RELATED: Sen. Collins says she will vote to allow witnesses, documents in impeachment trial

Q: Without witnesses to fill in those gaps, will you and other senators be able to cast a fair vote?         

A: I believe that there is enough evidence to reach conclusions even though I would’ve liked to have cleared up some issues. For example, Ambassador Sondland’s testimony is inconsistent. At one point he says the President told him there was no quid pro quo, and yet he testified before the House that he assumed that there was some sort of quid pro quo. It would’ve been nice to have had him as one of the witnesses called, to be able to have both sides cross examine him and ask him to resolve that inconsistency. Why did he presume what he presumed? That’s just one example.

RELATED: William Cohen says impeachment trial is a 'lose, lose' situation for Senators like Collins

Q: Is there anything more you and your colleagues could have done to bring witness testimony into the trial?
A: The House certainly could’ve done much more to present us with a much fuller record. I think it’s disappointing that the House did not pursue it’s legal remedies, did not push to get the witnesses it really wanted to have. It did have 17, and that witness testimony is certainly important, but the House did not in any way push to exhaust it’s legal remedies on the Senate side. 

Q: You've been harshly criticized by both sides for voting the way you did. There have been threats, disturbing voicemails to your office. Has this political divisiveness gotten to be too much for you?

A: What most has upset me is a threat that came in that name to 10 rural high schools, including my home high school in Caribou and the Bangor high school where I live now. The threat was of mass shootings if I voted to acquit the President.I just don’t understand that. It is so beyond the pale. I feel terrible that we’ve gotten to that level.

RELATED: Sen. Susan Collins: It's 'important to explore' Bolton allegations against Trump

Q: The Republican Party is seen by some as a very ‘divisive machine’ right now, what makes you want to remain a Republican today?

A: I am a Republican because I believe in the traditional Republican values of personal responsibility, a strong national defense, free market, small business, individual freedom. Those to me are core principles of the Republican party and they’re still principles that I believe in. I’m never going to tow the party line that’s never been my style I look at every issue independently and at times I cast votes that make my party angry, such as when I voted to acquit President Clinton, because I did not feel that his offenses met the high standards in The Constitution of high crimes and misdemeanors or bribery or treason. And there are times when my votes are annoying to the Democratic Party. What I do is I always keep in mind what I think is right and in the interest of the people of Maine, in this country. But as far as the coarsening of the debate, I think there’s plenty of faults on both sides.

Q: Did you feel pressure from the Republican party at any point? 

A: I did not. Now obviously Republicans and Maine are not happy about my vote for witnesses. They’re not happy at all because they felt that the House did a very poor job of putting together a record and I should not help to 'fix' the flaws in the House record. It’s ironic because I’m getting hit by Republicans for voting for witnesses, for some additional witnesses, and I’m getting criticized by the left who should be happy that I voted for witnesses. But they’ve come up with this bizarre theory that somehow I was granted permission. I don’t run my votes by anybody.

RELATED: Collins, King question legal teams in Trump's impeachment trial as vote on witnesses nears

Q: What do you say to critics who claim you got a 'hall pass' from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that he gave you permission to vote the way you did?

A: I had no meetings with Mitch McConnell on how I was going to vote on witnesses. None. Zero. I think it’s tremendously sexist. After all I don’t hear anyone on the far left saying that it Romney got a hall pass.

Q: Did you know that Senator Lamar Alexander was going to vote the way he did before you announced your own decision?

A: I had already gotten my announcement written. I had it all finished. I told my office that as soon as the questions were finished I would email them just to confirm that it was ready to go. In the meantime Senator Alexander had emailed me the copy of his statement. I had not talked to him prior to that, so I did not know what his final decision was going to be.

Q: Do you believe that the president is guilty?

A: You think you're going to get that scoop? (Laughter) I haven't heard final arguments yet. I've started drafting parts of a speech, but I have not reached a final conclusion.

RELATED: Sen. Susan Collins' office receives targeted, profanity-laced voicemails ahead of witness decision

Closing arguments in Pres. Trump's impeachment trial will begin on Monday.

Sen. Collins and other senators will have the chance to give speeches on the Senate floor on Tuesday before Trump's State of the Union Address Tuesday night.

A final vote that is expected to acquit the President is scheduled for Wednesday.