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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) appeared on CNN’s “New Day” with host Alisyn Camerota to discuss the national emergency declaration, the rising cost of prescription drugs, and other issues.
A transcript of the interview follows:
March 7, 2019
ALISYN CAMEROTA: Joining us now to talk about this and so much more we have Republican Susan Collins, she is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Good morning Senator.
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: Good morning, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: So, it seems that there is a lot more material that has come out from Michael Cohen in the past week. There's these cancelled checks that we've now seen paid from President Trump to Michael Cohen. There are all of this reporting about requests for pardons. We don't know who made the overture, which side. Do you have new questions for Michael Cohen?
COLLINS: Well there is a lot of conflicting information. It seems to me based on the public reports and public hearings as opposed to our closed hearings in the Senate Intelligence Committee that Michael Cohen has given at least three different stories when it comes to the pardon. I felt that Senator Kaine said it best this morning when he said there was a lack of direct evidence and it was very difficult to sort out. In the Senate we're focusing on the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 elections and Russian efforts to influence public opinion and exploit divisions.
CAMEROTA: And have you felt that Michael Cohen on those topics has been credible for you?
COLLINS: It's difficult to know. We're trying to put the pieces of the evidence together. And we clearly need to re-interview some witnesses whose accounts he contradicts. But I would point out that he was convicted of -- or pled guilty to lying to our Senate Intelligence Committee. So it's very difficult to put the pieces of the puzzle together. But we're trying to get to the truth as is the Special Counsel.
CAMEROTA: If you find he asked the Trump team for a pardon, does that change your opinion of him or his testimony?
COLLINS: If Michael Cohen asked for a pardon?
COLLINS: I do think that is problematic because it casts doubt over the veracity of all of his testimony.
CAMEROTA: I want to move on to the declaration of the national emergency at the border because you are one of four senators who has said that you will vote to block the President's declaration of a national emergency. I'm just wondering if the new numbers that we saw yesterday from customs and border protection, that there is a crisis or certainly the numbers have spiked. And it appears to be a humanitarian crisis where more families are presenting, more unaccompanied children are presenting. They are trying to seek asylum. According to CBP they can't sustain all of these people, so I'm wondering if that's changed your plan and opinion on what you want to do with the national emergency.
COLLINS: There is no doubt that we needed stronger border security and that our immigration system is broken. But that's an entirely different issue from the constitutional authority vested in Congress to appropriate funds. I don't see this debate about being whether you are for the wall or against the wall, whether you like President Trump or you dislike President Trump. I see this as a very important constitutional debate where Congress must step up, protect its institutional prerogatives and defend its role under article one of the constitution. It's not the job of the executive branch; it's not the job of judicial branch to appropriate money. It is the job of Congress.
CAMEROTA: Well, President Trump says you're wrong. Here is his tweet to that very point. "Senate Republicans are not voting on constitutionality or precedent. They are voting on desperately needed border security and the wall. Our country is being invaded with drugs, human traffickers and criminals of all shapes and sizes. That's what this vote is about. Stay united." Your response?
COLLINS: I don't see it as being what this vote is about. I support stronger border security including a wall where it makes sense along the border. But what this debate is about is whether the President of the United States can take billions of dollars that have been appropriated that he has signed into law and then repurposed them for other projects. In many cases, 2.5 billion of this amount is coming from essential, vital military construction projects. I don't believe that the President has that authority under the constitution. I think the better approach would be for him to submit a supplemental appropriation and work with Congress to try to get it through. Not to unilaterally act.
CAMEROTA: Do you agree with him that our country is being invaded by criminals of all shapes and sizes from the southern border?
COLLINS: I would not use that language but there's no doubt that we have drugs coming in. Ninety percent of the heroin is coming in through the southern border. A lot of it is coming through legal ports of entry and so we need to strengthen security there as well. And there's no doubt that we do have a humanitarian crisis that needs to be dealt with. So I've supported billions of dollars to help deal with that humanitarian crisis, to put up physical barriers, to increase technology, to have more personnel and roads to remote areas. We need an all of the above approach and we need to be guided by the experts at the Department of Homeland Security. But still, that doesn't change the fact of the separation of powers under the constitution and that's what I'm concerned about.
CAMEROTA: And Senator, do you feel like the White House has been turning up the heat on you and the other three republican senators who have said they are going to vote to block it?
COLLINS: Has been turning? I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you.
CAMEROTA: Turning up the heat. I mean Sarah Sanders spoken out publically about do your job. The President is tweeting directly at you and your other three republican senators. So I'm just wondering if you are feeling more heat in the past week or two.
COLLINS: I know the President feels very strongly about this issue and I too feel very strongly about border security. I helped bring a bipartisan bill to the floor last year that would have given the President $25 billion over ten years. But we just cannot have continent having the President unilaterally shift vast sums of money around for which he does not have the authority to do, in my judgment, under the National Emergencies Act or other laws. He does have some authority to shift funds, but not to this extent. Particularly after Congress turned down his request.
COLLINS: I don't want to make Congress meaningless in the appropriations process when it is arguably our chief role under the constitution.
CAMEROTA: Very quickly, do you think there will be more than four republicans who vote to block?
COLLINS: I do.
CAMEROTA: You do? You have a sense? You have talked to people and you think that at the vote there will be more, how many?
COLLINS: I don't know. I haven't taken a count. But I can tell you from talking with my colleagues that many are troubled, even those who are the strongest supporters of the President and his views on border security.
CAMEROTA: OK, tell us about the hearing you are having today that affects so many Americans' health.
COLLINS: I'm holding a second hearing today on the high cost of prescription drugs. This is a major problem in our country, particularly for our seniors. Ninety percent of whom take at least one prescription drug. Yesterday, we heard the voices of patients who told us that they simply could not afford the prescription drugs they need to maintain their health or they have gone deeply in debt in order to do so. That just isn't right. There are a number of actions that we could take to help make the whole system more transparent and to put pressures on the marketplace to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Today, we'll hear from a panel of experts who will give us their policy advice for solutions in this area.
CAMEROTA: And quickly tell us about one of the solutions. Just what you think might be the easiest solution to help fix this.
COLLINS: One of the things that we need to do is to deal with our patent system and I've introduced a bipartisan bill that would do just that. What we're finding is that when the patent is about to expire on a brand name prescription drug, often that manufacturer will make some small change in the drug's formulation or packaging, get a new patents in order to keep competitors -- generic competitors that would force the price down out of the market. So, I've introduced a bipartisan bill that would take aim at the gaming of the patent system. Patents are legitimate but should not be abused.
CAMEROTA: Really interesting, Senator Susan Collins we'll be watching today and thank you very much. We always enjoy having you on New Day.
COLLINS: Thanks so much, Alisyn.