Sometimes all it takes is one. Even as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives continues to try to protect Donald Trump over Russia, and even with the majority of the Senate still showing little interest in getting involved one way or the other, none of that may end up mattering. Due to her role as the swing vote on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Senator Susan Collins can take down Trump over Russia with or without any help from her own party – and she’s signaling that she’ll do just that.
The House Intelligence Committee is still intent on not investigating Trump-Russia. But that has no impact on the Senate Intelligence Committee, a fifteen member body which does whatever the majority of its members see fit. Its eight Republican members can collectively stall any Trump-Russia investigation. But one of those eight Republicans, Susan Collins, is now going sharply the other direction.
Collins gave an interview last week, while the Senate was in recess, in which she called for Michael Flynn to testify and said she’ll pursue Donald Trump’s tax returns if necessary. Flynn has already been caught colluding with Russian officials before and after the election, and he presumably knows where all the bodies are buried in the Trump-Russia scandal. And even if Flynn refuses to cooperate, which would put him in contempt of Congress, Trump’s tax returns will surely give away his Russian connections.
If Collins continues to side with the Democrats in prompting the Senate Intel Committee to keep investigating Trump-Russia, more evidence and details will continue to come out. Trump will look progressively more guilty, the public will increasingly conclude that it wants answers, and his approval rating will continue to fall. At some point the other Republicans in Congress will conclude that they must also stand against Trump on Russia in order to preserve their own chances of reelection.
It’s why Republican Congressman Darrell Issa began calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself in favor of an independent special prosecutor over the weekend. Issa as partisan as they come, but he’s also savvy enough to see that Susan Collins now seems intent on taking Trump down over Russia, and that no one else in the Republican Party can prevent her from ultimately forcing them to go along with it in the end.
Donald Trump hasn’t yet figured out that Susan Collins is his biggest nightmare. He’ll begin attacking her personally when he does. So whether she stays the course on pursuing Trump-Russia will depend on whether she ultimately concludes she’s more afraid of Trump’s insults, or more afraid of having to explain to her moderate state of Maine (and to the American people nationwide) why she didn’t take Trump down when she had the chance. For now, Collins is very firmly on the side of helping the Democrats take Trump down.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report