GWEN IFILL: Now, for more on the Republican defections and discontent surrounding the Trump candidacy, we turn to Maine Senator Susan Collins, who, as we noted earlier, announced today she will not vote for Donald Trump, her party’s nominee.
She spoke with me earlier today from Bangor, Maine.
Senator Collins, welcome.
You have declared Donald Trump today in your op-ed as unworthy to be your party’s nominee for president. Why didn’t you make that conclusion sooner?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine): I kept hoping that Donald Trump, once he won the primary, would change. I hoped that we would see a new Donald Trump, one who put forth thoughtful policy positions, stopped denigrating people, and had a more positive vision for America.
Regrettably, I have concluded that there is not going to be a new Donald Trump, that he’s incapable of saying he’s sorry, of changing, of learning, of growing.
And it was that conclusion that has led me to believe that he lacks the temperament, the judgment, the knowledge, and the self-restraint to be our next president.
GWEN IFILL: The questions about his temperament were raised again today when he spoke in North Carolina and said that the only way — he suggested that the only way to stop Hillary Clinton from appointing judges that they disagreed with is that maybe the Second Amendment folks could handle it.
Does that suggest to you that he was — maybe you didn’t hear it because I know you have been traveling today, but does that kind of comment suggest to you a comment on his temperament or that he was joking or suggesting violence against his rival?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I certainly don’t think he’s suggesting violence in any way.
But, again, it’s a very poor choice of words. And I think this speaks to a broader issue. And that is the politicization of the judicial nomination process, which both parties have been guilty of.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Collins, what does Donald Trump’s nomination as the standard-bearer for your party tell you about your party?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I don’t think that Donald Trump represents the traditional Republican values and heritage of my party.
That’s one reason that I don’t support him. The Republican Party has always revered the individual. We led the way in abolishing slavery, for example, and we recognize the dignity and worth of every human being.
And it is clear that Donald Trump, by his derogatory comments, by his mocking of the most vulnerable people in our society, by his marginalization of ethnic and religious minorities, doesn’t reflect the traditional Republican values.
I want to see a Republican Party that is a big tent, inclusive party that welcomes all people to be Republicans and to contribute their ideas and support our position of providing opportunity to the American people. And I believe he goes in the opposite direction and deepens the divisions that are so pervasive in our society today.
GWEN IFILL: And you acknowledged in your piece today that ran in The Washington Post that he is connecting with some discontent in our country and perhaps that Bernie Sanders was as well, you wrote. So,
what is that? And who can speak to that in this election year?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I see that disconnect very clearly in my own state of Maine, where there are people who have been affected by mill closures, some of which have been brought about by poorly negotiated trade agreements, and they do feel marginalized and left behind.
They have not been able to find new work, despite the fact that they did nothing wrong that caused them to lose their jobs. Both parties need to do a better job of reaching out to those individuals, to those hardworking families, and providing job training, matching people and giving them new skills for new jobs.
That is the one area where I think Donald Trump is striking a chord that really resonates and should resonate. Both parties need to do a better job of rejecting poorly negotiated trade agreements. And I would put the president’s TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, in that category.
We have lost thousands of manufacturing jobs just in the state of Maine alone, and that resonates with people, and understandably so.
GWEN IFILL: Would you support Hillary Clinton?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I would not.
I did work well with Hillary when she was my colleague in the Senate, and I certainly don’t bear her any ill will. But when I listened carefully to her commencement speech, what I heard was a laundry list of very expensive new programs that our country simply cannot afford, and that would add to our already overwhelming $17 trillion debt.
I’m also disturbed by the mismatch in her answers to the questions about her e-mail server and what the FBI Director Comey says that the FBI’s investigation found.
GWEN IFILL: You said commencement speech, but I’m pretty sure you meant convention speech. I think that’s right.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I’m sorry.
GWEN IFILL: Can I — have you ever met Donald Trump?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: I have only met him once. It was when he spoke to the Republican Caucus.
At that time, I suggested that he present a more positive agenda to the American people. And I used the example of supporting more funding for biomedical research, which has been a real priority among Republicans in both the House and the Senate.
GWEN IFILL: And would you suggest to any of you colleagues that they join you and oppose him, those who have endorsed him already especially?
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Each of my colleagues has to make his or her own decision. I wouldn’t presume to tell them what decision they should make.
I have been heartened by the number of e-mails that I have received and text messages from colleagues in the Senate on both sides of the aisle applauding my op-ed and supporting what I have done. Now, to be sure, there are those who disagree with me as well.
GWEN IFILL: OK.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, thank you very much for your time.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS: Thank you.
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