Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine urged the country “to accept that Donald Trump is our president” during an interview Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Collins, who has repeatedly bucked her own party in its efforts to implement Trump’s legislative agenda, addressed the speech of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) last week in which the unpopular anti-Trump senator announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in 2018. During the course of his speech, Flake blasted the president for the “new normal” both he and his populist conservative agenda represent, while saying he wouldn’t be “complicit” in supporting what is “dangerous to a democracy.”
But when host John Dickerson asked Collins about Flake’s criticism, the moderate GOP senator chose not to align herself with Flake.
“Well, first let me say that Jeff Flake’s one of my best friends in the Senate. I have enormous respect for him. And I’m really sorry that he’s not going to be running for re-election. The Senate will be a lesser place without his being in it,” Collins began.
“Having said that, I think we need to accept that Donald Trump is our president,” she continued. “And my approach is to work with my fellow Republicans, with Democrats, with House members, and also with this administration. That’s the only way that we’re going to get things done in this Congress. It’s the only way that we can assure the American people that they can have some trust in government and that we’re working to better their lives.”
Collins — who repeatedly voted against her party’s attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare and deliver health care reform — downplayed Flake’s decision to take a stand. But Dickerson pushed back, noting that Flake “would say that there is some responsibility, though, even while you’re trying to get things done, to call out those things the president does that might get in the way of you getting things done.”
In response Collins said that although she has “not hesitated to disagree with the president” on a variety of issues and will continue to do so, she will still work with Trump at every available opportunity.
“So I’m going to continue to do that. I’ll work with the president and support his policies when I think he’s right,” Collins said. “But I will not hesitate to oppose him when I think that he is misguided.”
Flake found himself lauded by GOP Establishment members, anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats alike when he blasted Trump and rejected the uprising of conservative populism within his own party. Championing the Arizona Republican as a hero of sorts, Democratic members of Congress came to Flake’s defense after Trump and his supporters pushed back.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week” that Flake’s speech on the Senate floor was “the most significant speech in Congress in the 17 years that I have been there,” adding that the country “will have to answer for history” for electing Trump into office and enduring his presidency.
Collins’ unusual defense of Trump and his legitimacy as president also came as the country prepares for new revelations regarding special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. Talk of potential collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign has dominated news coverage for the bulk of Trump’s nine months in office.