Susan Collins: David Frum was 'very sexist' to suggest I asked permission to vote for witnesses

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Sen. Susan Collins, R-Me., told Fox News Wednesday night that former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum was "very sexist" to suggest that she had asked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., if she could vote to call additional witnesses in the Senate impeachment trial of President Trump last week.

"I’ve cast more than 7,000 votes in my Senate time and I've never asked anyone for permission on how to vote," Collins told "The Story" in an exclusive interiview. "So that is totally wrong. I would also argue it’s very sexist that he thinks that I somehow got permission to vote for witnesses, a position I’d taken from the very beginning."

Collins and Mitt Romney, R-Utah, were the only Republicans to vote with all 45 Senate Democrats and two Independents to support a resolution to seek additional witnesses and documents. Following the vote, Frum, who now writes for the Atlantic, tweeted: "I don't know why I feel so sure of this, yet I am sure: Susan Collins asked Mitch McConnell for permission to vote for witnesses. Mitt Romney didn't."

"I worked hard to ensure that there would be a vote on whether to proceed to witnesses," Collins told host Martha MacCallum, adding that neither she nor Romney "asked for permission."

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Collins also explained her decision to vote to acquit President Trump on both articles of impeachment brought by Hosue Democrats.

"To me, when you study what the framers said and the high bar that they set for removing a duly-elected president, immediately from office and banning him or her from ever running again, it shows you that this was not to be undertaken lightly," said Collins. "[It is] only applied to bribery, treason, high crimes and misdemeanors. And I did not think based on my review of the evidence that the House managers proved that case, particularly when we're talking about a hard-to-define noncriminal act."

Even as she criticized Trump's call at the heart of the impeachment push as "wrong," Collins said that the Democrats' "abuse of power" charge "did not even attempt" to allege that Trump had committed a crime, and instead constituted a "difficult-to-define, non-criminal act."

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Collins also noted that she believed the president "learned his lesson" from the impeachment process and cautioned him against committing similar offenses in the future.

"I hoped that the president would have learned from the fact that he was impeached by the House even though I think that was a partisan move, but there were so many of us that were Republicans in the Senate that were very critical of the call," she said. "The call was wrong."

"The president should simply not do it again...nobody wants to put the country through this again."

— Sen. Susan Collins, 'The Story'

Collins added that while "parts of the call were fine, the president then mixed in asking a federal government to investigate a political rival."

"He should not have done that. And I would hope that he would not do it again," she said.

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Asked whether she received assurance from Trump directly that he would, in fact, avoid such instances, Collins said she has had no contact with the president since the trial began, and that it was "more aspirational" on her part.

"The president should simply not do it again," she reiterated. "Nobody wants to put the country through this again. There's a reason why we have never removed a president in all the years despite the provisions in the Constitution because it's overturning an election. It says the voters no longer have the right to decide."

Since announcing her support of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018, Collins, now considered one of the most vulnerable incumbent lawmakers in the 2020 election, has faced intense political backlash and received numerous death threats  -- one of which included an anthrax scare, she told MacCallum.

MacCallum played a number of the profanity-laced voicemails Collins has received from angry constituents during the interview as a small indication of what Collins called "kind of abuse and harassment that occurred to my staff, my family and me since my vote for Justice Kavanaugh."

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"It’s a sad commentary that we can’t have a difference of opinion without resorting to profanity, death threats, vile language," she added, saying "it seems we’ve lost in this country the ability to disagree respectfully."

"It seems we’ve lost in this country the ability to disagree respectfully."

— Sen. Susan Collins, 'The Story'

Asked what effect her vote to acquit Trump would have on her re-election bid, Collins said "she really doesn't know" but that she made her choice "without regard to the political consequences."

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"It’s very hard to say," she said. " I’m sure there are people who are furious at me, happy with me. But that’s not what influenced my decision. When you have a constitutional decision to make, you have to do it in a serious, solemn manner and without regard to the political consequences."

"I’ve cast more than 7,000 votes in my Senate time and I've never asked anyone for permission on how to vote."

— Sen. Susan Collins, 'The Story'

Turning to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's meltdown following Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night, Collins said she thought it was "terrible" and that it "adds to the polarization and divisiveness that is tearing our country apart."

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"I thought it was disrespectful and rude and she shouldn't have done it," Collins added. "I was disappointed in her."