Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, returns to the chamber as the Senate voted to consider hearing from witnesses in the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Escalating his false claims of a stolen 2020 election, former President Donald Trump called Maine Sen. Susan Collins “wacky” late Sunday for the bipartisan effort she is leading to make it harder for members of Congress to challenge presidential election results.

Trump’s statement followed a Saturday rally in Texas, where he dangled the idea of pardons for supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, while lawmakers certified the election of President Joe Biden. He had urged Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the count, something Pence did not have the authority to do as he presided.

The relationship between Collins and Trump, both Republicans, has been strained. She refused to back him in the 2016 election. She never said how she voted in 2020, while he backed her reelection. Collins hit Trump for his role in the Capitol riot and was one of seven Republican senators who voted last year to convict him of a related impeachment charge.

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Collins drew Trump’s ire after appearing Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” to discuss negotiations on the Electoral College count, saying she was hopeful a group of senators could reach a deal clarifying the vice president’s “ministerial” role over the Electoral College certification and making it harder for members of Congress to challenge results, among other things.

In response to questions, the Maine senator said Trump should not have made the pledge to pardon rioters. She added it was “unlikely” that she would support Trump if he runs for the party’s nomination in 2024, citing other potential challengers.

Trump hit Democrats and Republicans “like Wacky Susan Collins” for their work on the issue and likened it to an admission that “Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome, and they now want to take that right away.”

“Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!” he said.

The former president’s assertions are false. The 1887 Electoral Count Act gives the vice president no power other than to preside over the count.

One House member and one senator can object to results in a state, triggering debate and a majority vote on whether those votes should be counted despite the challenge. Those types of objections were rejected during Biden’s certification. Collins and others have identified them as a vulnerability that should be fixed.

Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...