President Trump on Sunday night pressured embattled Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to rethink her position on his firing of Dr. Rick Bright, the former vaccine czar-turned-whistleblower.
"This whole Whistleblower racket needs to be looked at very closely, it is causing great injustice & harm. I hope you are listening @SenSusanCollins," the president tweeted at his fellow Republican.
Two days prior, Collins, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has co-authored whistleblower protection laws, closed out a thread about the firing of former State Department inspector general Steve Linick with a disapproving tweet about Trump. It was unclear whether Trump the president had confused the case of Linick with Bright.
"I have long been a strong advocate for the Inspectors General," Collins wrote. "They are vital partners in Congress's effort to identify inefficient or ineffective government programs and to root out fraud and other wrongdoing."
"The President has not provided the kind of justification for the removal of IG Linick required by this law," she concluded her criticism.
Bright, the former vaccine czar, has filed an 89-page report detailing his ouster, which came after he resisted White House pressure to fast-track an unproven anti-malarial drug as a COVID-19 treatment.
Once perceived as a rare moderate, pro-choice Republican, Collins has over the course of Trump's term become the object of intense criticism, largely for her votes to acquit Trump in his impeachment trial and approve the president's lifetime appointment of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh despite allegations of sexual assault.
In response to Trump purging two witnesses from his impeachment scandal, Collins said she did not believe that the president had been emboldened by his acquittal in the Senate.
"I think the president was angered by impeachment," she said at the time. "And that is reflected in the personnel choices he made."
Collins said just one week prior that she thought Trump had "learned his lesson" after impeachment, a claim which she later walked back as "aspirational," having physically dodged press questions about the gaffe.
Collins currently trails Democratic challenger Sara Gideon by 2.5 points in an average of polls. Mainstream Republican power players see this as a red flag for their chances of holding the Senate on Election Day. A dark-money group affiliated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and election strategist Karl Rove has dumped one million dollars into Collins' re-election bid since January. That month, Collins beat out McConnell to become the most unpopular member of the U.S. Senate.