Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen speaks prior to the lecture at the Collins Center in Nov. 5, 2019, file photo. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

William S. Cohen, a former Maine senator and defense secretary, said he thinks President Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense that could result in his removal from office.

Trump’s impeachment trial, prompted by accusations that he withheld aid to U.S. ally Ukraine in exchange for political favors, was scheduled to begin Tuesday.

In an appearance Monday night on PBS NewsHour, Cohen said one key point is a phone call Trump had with Ukraine’s president.

“When you look at what the president did in his ‘perfect phone call,’ I believe it was perfectly corrupt,” Cohen said. “I believe it was very clear what he had in mind in terms of ‘I need a favor though,’ having put in place his attorney and others to do all the work necessary to remove the professionals who would say ‘Mr. President, this is not right.’”

Cohen, a Republican who served as defense secretary in the Clinton administration in the 1990s and as a freshman lawmaker on the House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach President Richard Nixon in 1974, urged senators to fully pursue the evidence in the impeachment trial, and to ask for additional evidence if questions remain. He said constituents will hold the senators accountable if they fail to do so.

“I think more evidence is going to come out,” Cohen said. “It’ll be quite damning and damaging, and then they will be called upon by their constituency: ‘Well, why didn’t you at least go forward and ask for more evidence so that you could be informed, so that we could be informed?’”

Cohen said the evidence points to Trump using his office for a “corrupt purpose” — the intended use of taxpayers’ money in the form of foreign aid to leverage help for his re-election campaign.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.