Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins says it’s essential that the special counsel investigating Russian election interference and possible connections to the Trump campaign be allowed to complete his work.
Collins issued a written statement Monday saying that it would be “devastating” if Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is impeded.
“He is a person of great experience and impeccable integrity, whose appointment was praised by both sides of the aisle. It is absolutely essential that he be allowed to finish his work,” she said.
Collins statement is similar to other Senate Republicans who have been forced to respond to repeated attacks on the investigation by President Donald Trump, although it's not the first time she has publicly backed Mueller's investigation.
Trump has used Twitter and his political allies to wage a campaign to discredit Mueller’s probe, calling it a witch hunt orchestrated by corrupt members of the FBI.
The president’s statements — and the recent abrupt sacking of deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe — has fueled speculation that Mueller could be fired.
Collins did not address McCabe’s dismissal, but she said it’s important to remember that Mueller can only be fired Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosentein for “good cause.”
Collins, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee with independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, said she asked Rosenstein last summer what he would do if President Trump ordered him to fire the special counsel.
“He replied that he would not follow any order — regardless of who issued it — unless he believed it was a lawful and appropriate one,” Collins said.
King, appearing on the CBS public affairs show Face the Nation on Sunday, said the Trump administration’s continued efforts to discredit the independent probe into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election could create a constitutional crisis.
He also questioned the timing of McCabe’s dismissal, which he said is troubling because the evidence to support his firing has not been disclosed. He also noted that the inquiry into McCabe’s conduct appeared to be fast-tracked, even though a full report is due this spring.
“It appears to be compressed to take vengeance on this guy for some reason,” King said. “And I don’t think that’s the way we should be governing.”
McCabe was fired late Friday night by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions just hours before he was set to retire and collect a pension after over 20 years of service with the FBI.
Sessions alleged that McCabe mislead congressional investigators and leaked to the press, but the evidence of those assertions is not yet public.
McCabe denied the allegations and said his dismissal was an attempt by the Trump administration to undermine his credibility and to undermine a special counsel investigation that has already led to the indictments to former Trump campaign officials and is moving toward the president’s business dealings.
Meanwhile, President Trump has fired off a series of tweets championing McCabe’s dismissal. The president has publicly berated McCabe for the better part of a year, tweeting in December that McCabe was racing the clock to retire.
King is also questioning the president’s repeated attempts to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference.
“Anybody who says there’s nothing to it, well they’ve already had three or four guilty pleas and 15 or 20 indictments,” King says. “That tells me that there is something going on here and there’s something serious.”
This story was originally published March 19, 2018 at 4:32 p.m. ET.