WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Former Maine Senator and U. S. Secretary of Defense, William Cohen sat down with NEWS CENTER Maine this week to weigh in on President Trump’s impeachment trial and the increased pressure surrounding Senator Susan Collins’ future vote on whether to allow witnesses and additional evidence into the trial.
“This is not a win-win, this is a lose-lose situation for someone like Senator Collins and others who are in either blue or purple states,” Cohen said. “If she votes for witnesses or acquittal, she will anger people on the right. If she doesn’t, she’ll anger people on the left.”
Despite ties to the Republican party, the former Senator has spoken frequently about why he feels the allegations against the President – that he withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance to Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens, something President Trump denies - are strong enough to be considered impeachable offenses.
“There’s nothing that could change my mind about the gravity of what was done, but I would be open to hearing it,” Cohen said. “Tell me if I’m wrong on this, but based on all my experience and listening to the presentation made to the Intelligence Committee and the House Judiciary Committee, I have not seen any evidence that contradicts the conclusion that there were impeachable offenses.”
Cohen has a unique history with impeachment trials. He served as Secretary of Defense under President Clinton during the 1999 impeachment trial.
He was also a member of the House Judiciary Committee during the 1974 investigation into President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Cohen angered many Republicans by voting for articles of impeachment against Nixon.
As it was in 1974, Cohen says the sole duty of Senators during this trial is to listen and determine whether they believe the facts add up to what’s considered to be an impeachable offense – a high crime or misdemeanor.
“During the investigation into Richard Nixon we spent two months trying to come to an understanding of what that phrase meant, and we came to the conclusion it did not have to be a crime,” Cohen said. “It could be something that was so antithetical to the high standards that we expect from the person who operates or sits in that office that he could be removed, or she could be removed, so it doesn’t have to be a crime, it has to be serious.”
He said it’s a moment in his life he still looks back at and reflects on.
At the time, Susan Collins was Cohen’s young intern. She would go on to succeed him in the Senate in 1997 when he stepped into his new role as Defense Secretary. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Cohen is standing behind the Republican Senator as she continues to listen on during the trial.
However, he’s encouraging every Senator to do ‘what they believe is right’ after hearing the evidence and to ignore the polls. He says he has faith Senator Collins and others will do that when they cast their final votes.
“I think what she has to do is what she’s doing, and that is listening, listening to what the factual presentation is to date… and then make a judgment on her own,” Cohen said. “I don’t think it’s necessary to be upfront about it before she has the facts and when she has the facts, I’m confident she’ll do what she believes to be the right thing.”
That controversial vote on whether to allow witnesses into the trial is expected Friday. However, if enough votes are not secured, the impeachment trial of President Trump could be over as early as Friday night.