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Susan Collins Says She’s Not Yet Ready to Back Donald Trump

6 minute read

Correction appended, June 6

The dean of the Republican women in Congress, Sen. Susan Collins has expressed concern over GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump’s remarks on women, Latinos and the judge overseeing a civil case against Trump University.

The Maine Republican talked to TIME about her reluctance to endorse Trump, her longtime friendship with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and how she won’t ruling out serving on either’s cabinets—however unlikely she thinks those prospects may be.

What did you make of Trump’s statements on Judge Gonzalo Curiel that his Mexican heritage should disqualify him from hearing the case against Trump University?

It’s very troubling because it indicates a lack of respect for the judiciary and a lack of appreciation for the separation of powers doctrine that presidents should embrace. I don’t know what’s going to come next. That’s one of the challenges with evaluating Donald Trump. I don’t know if tomorrow he will concede that he was just angry about his case and that he should not have made that kind of appalling and unacceptable comment about a federal judge.

Will you still support him?

I’ve said from the point that it became obvious that Donald Trump was going to be the Republican candidate that I’d always supported previous presidential nominees of my party but that in this case I was going to wait and see what happened and that is what I am continuing to do.

After the 2012 election, the Republican Party autopsy recommended that the party do a better job appealing and recruiting women. Do you think Trump’s comments on women have been damaging to that effort?

I do. I’m also well aware that he has appointed and hired women to higher positions within his companies and that his daughter is an extremely accomplished businesswoman, which are good signs. But I did not like, for example, when he said that Hillary was playing quote “the woman’s card” because I felt that demeaned, unfairly, her accomplishments. And some of his other comments on Megyn Kelly, for example, were completely unacceptable and again demeaning—so that is contrary to the direction that the Republican Party is pursuing and those same statements would apply to our Republican outreach to Hispanic groups and to our overall message that we welcome everybody and anybody under the Republican tent.

Politics aside, Hillary Clinton is a personal friend of yours. She co-hosted your bridal shower in 2012. Is it hard to watch her go through these attacks, particularly gender attacks?

I certainly was critical of Donald Trump when he accused Hillary of playing the “woman’s card.” She’s an accomplished person who is clearly qualified to be President. I do have a good relationship with her. We worked closely together in the Senate on a number of initiatives. She was co-chair of the Alzheimer’s task force, which I headed, and we worked together on economic development issues as well. And we worked together when she was Secretary of State on issues of empowering Afghan women. I don’t think that any campaign is ennobled by people trading insults.

You’ve said you believe she is qualified to be president. Are there any circumstances under which you could see yourself voting for Hillary?

I do not anticipate voting for Hillary this fall. This race has been so unpredictable with so many twists and turns in the road that it is very difficult to predict what is going to happen. But I do not anticipate casting my vote for Hillary.

What did you make of the op-ed in the Bangor Daily News calling on you to stand up to Trump the way Margaret Chase Smith stood up to Joe McCarthy during the Second Red Scare?

What I made of that column was that there was an organized effort among very partisan Democrats in Maine to say exactly the same thing. Very similar columns, all by ardent Democrats, appeared in four different papers in the state. So, I don’t think that was a coincidence. I think that was an organized effort. To me the proper analogy was what Margaret Chase Smith did in the [1964] election with Barry Goldwater. She wasn’t happy with Goldwater being the nominee of the party; she felt he was too hawkish and too conservative. She did vote for him but she did not campaign for him.

From that story, will you not campaign for Donald Trump?

It’s just too early to tell. I would be surprised if I campaigned for Donald Trump based on his behavior and comments thus far but I believe in redemption. He is so unpredictable that perhaps tomorrow he will change his style, articulate his vision for America, beyond just saying he wants to make America great again, and come up with a series of plans and policies that I could support. For example, I do not disagree with Donald Trump on every issue. I think a lot of his criticism of trade deals is right on the money. I’ve seen the impact of poorly negotiated trade agreements on manufacturing in Maine.

Would you serve in a Clinton Cabinet?

I’ve learned long ago not to speculate on unlikely hypotheticals so I’m not going to speculate.

Would you serve as a Trump VP or in his cabinet?

Again, two very unlikely scenarios. I’ve never even met Donald Trump. I’ve never seen him in person even. He’s the one candidate of all those running on the Republican side that I’ve never met and still haven’t. It’s significant that he hasn’t come to meet with the Senate Republican Caucus.

So, are you ruling out serving as VP or in the cabinet for either Hillary or Trump?

I’ve learned to never rule anything in or out.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the name of the lawmaker who Sen. Margaret Chase Smith confronted during the Second Red Scare. It was Sen. Joe McCarthy.

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