Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, made a revealing admission on Monday about her first thoughts during the Trump-fueled attack on the U.S. Capitol last week.
In a new column for the local paper Bangor Daily News, Collins detailed her experience during the Jan. 6 assault on Congress:
“My first thought was that the Iranians had followed through on their threat to strike the Capitol, but a police officer took over the podium and explained that violent demonstrators had breached the entire perimeter of the Capitol and were inside. Several of us pointed out that the doors to the press gallery were unlocked right above us. That tells you how overwhelmed and unprepared the Capitol Police were, although many, many of them were very courageous,” she wrote.
It was a stunning admission for Collins to say that her first thought during the attack was that it was Iranians.
The fact that this attack, which came from a crowd that was literally directly outside of the building where Collins was standing, wasn’t first in her mind says a lot. It says she has underestimated the true threat of Trump’s radicalism and right-wing extremism, and she is likely overestimating the threat posed by countries like Iran.
FBI Director Christopher Wray had previously warned Congress that groups including white supremacists, “anarchist violent extremists,” and “militia types” — groups often associated with the far right and support for President Trump — are committing the “the most lethal activity” and acts of domestic terrorism in the United States.
Collins’ failure to clearly see this threat, however, does not come as much of a surprise. After she voted to acquit Trump during his first impeachment in 2020, she infamously said Trump learned “a pretty big lesson” from the process. Well, with his action, he made clear that he hadn’t learned anything because he’s not being held accountable.
Nevertheless, Collins included criticism of Trump in her new piece. She squarely placed the blame for inciting the siege on Trump’s shoulders, writing:
“I called and texted my closest contact at the White House to urge that the president immediately tell the rioters to stop their violence and go home. But President Donald Trump completely undercut that message by repeating his grievances and telling the rioters that he knew how they felt. This was terrible, especially since he incited them in the first place.”
However, unlike her close ally Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Collins did not demand that Trump resign. Instead, she has hidden behind the process and declined to take a public stance on whether he should remain president.