Susan Collins dismisses new evidence in Trump trial after demanding to see new evidence

Collins said during Clinton's impeachment that the Senate must introduce additional evidence "to get the truth"

By Igor Derysh

Deputy Politics Editor

Published January 16, 2020 4:00AM (EST)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, dismissed new evidence about the Ukraine scheme that led to President Donald Trump's impeachment just weeks after calling to see all of the evidence in the Senate trial.

Collins said on Wednesday that a trove of documents turned over to the House Intelligence Committee by indicted former Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas should have been put into the record earlier, even though a judge only allowed the evidence to be released earlier this month.

"I wonder why the House did not put that into the record and it's only now being revealed," Collins told reporters.

When a reporter noted that Parnas only turned the evidence over last week, Collins replied, "Doesn't that suggest that the House did an incomplete job, then?"

Collins said she would consider the question of entering witnesses and documents during the trial.

"I do think that, as I said, it's important that we have an up-or-down vote on the issue of subpoenaing witnesses and documents," she said.

Collins' statement came just two weeks after she told Maine Public Radio that she may support Democratic calls for witnesses at Trump's trial once she sees all the evidence.

"I think it's premature to decide who should be called until we see the evidence that is presented and get the answers to the questions that we senators can submit through the Chief Justice to both sides," Collins said at the time.

Collins had a different legal perspective during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

"I need witnesses and further evidence to guide me to the right destination, to get to the truth," Collins said in January of 1999 as she called for additional evidence to be introduced during Clinton's Senate trial.

Collins' comments on Wednesday ignored the fact that the documents released by the House were subpoenaed by Democrats in October but were in possession of federal investigators who seized documents and electronic devices from Parnas when he was arrested last year. A judge allowed Parnas to turn the documents over to Congress earlier this month.

The documents released by the House on Wednesday include a letter sent by Giuliani to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky seeking a meeting in his capacity as Trump's personal attorney, contradicting Trump's claim that Giuliani may have been working for other clients or himself in Ukraine.

The documents also included a handwritten note Parnas left on Ritz-Carlton stationery apparently reminding himself to "get Zalensky [sic] to announce that the Biden case will be investigated."

Electronic messages released in the document dump also show that a Ukrainian prosecutor offered Giuliani information to help his effort in exchange for his help ousting Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Text messages exchanged between Parnas and Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde suggest Hyde may have had Yovanovitch under "physical surveillance," said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Ukrainian authorities have since launched a criminal investigation into the matter.

Parnas later implicated Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General Bill Barr, and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, during an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president. I have no intent — I have no reason to speak to any of these officials. I mean, they have no reason to speak to me," he said. "Why would President Zelensky's inner circle or Minister Avakov or all these people or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me, and that's the secret that they're trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work."

Parnas also contradicted Trump's claim that the Ukraine effort was intended to root out corruption.

"It was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden," he said. "It was never about corruption."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the new evidence shows the need to allow new evidence and witnesses in the trial.

"They're afraid of the truth," she said. "This is just another avoiding of the facts and the truth on their part. They don't want to see documents, they don't want to hear from eye witnesses, they want to ignore anything new that comes up."

Collins' communications director Annie Clark denied that Collins opposed allowing the new evidence during the trial.

"This is false," she wrote, adding that Collins "made clear from the start that she is open to witnesses, documents, and other evidence. The point that she was making is that the House rushed its investigation and thus did not have access to these materials."

Schiff said that any complaints about the scope of the House investigation should be directed to the Trump administration, which blocked the release of documents and witnesses in the impeachment inquiry.

"If Senator Collins or other senators are interested in the documents or why they haven't been available yet, they should turn those questions to the White House and say, 'Why are you hiding this? Why are you holding this back? Why aren't you releasing this information?'" Schiff told CNN.

Former federal prosecutor Mimi Rocah told The Washington Post that Collins was either "ignorant" on the issue or pushing Republican talking points in an attempt to defend Trump.

"Senator Collins is either ignorant and uninformed because she doesn't understand or know that a federal court only just released the Parnas docs or she is just making up excuses because the documents are so damning," she said. "Either one is unacceptable and the real question she should be asking is why Trump was trying to hide them."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's Deputy News and Politics Editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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