Sen. Susan Collins recently lamented “a profound lack of trust” in Washington that has made the business of bipartisan governance almost impossible.

In a recent joint television appearance with her Senate colleague Angus King, Collins observed that the nation is dividing into camps: “More and more, people are living with people who have the same views that they do. They are accessing news outlets that reinforce what they already think. … All of that combines to produce the divisions in our country that I think Washington reflects.”

Collins’ analysis is right, which is what makes her apparent acceptance of the president’s abrupt dismissal of FBI Director James Comey so difficult to understand. President Donald Trump’s action fuels the very atmosphere of distrust that Collins remarked on, and it drives Americans further into their ideological camps.

We need independent institutions that are above politics, and Collins should be demanding that criminal investigations don’t turn into partisan skirmishes.

Collins should call for the appointment of an independent special counsel to make sure that the work Comey started will be concluded in a way in which the American public can have confidence.

Comey has been a controversial FBI director, and there are legitimate reasons to consider replacing him. But the timing and context of his termination is not business as usual.

Regardless of his past misdeeds, Comey was fired by Trump while overseeing an investigation into allegations of meddling on behalf of Trump’s presidential campaign by foreign intelligence agents. His dismissal reeks of cover-up.

It comes nearly a year after Comey’s involvement in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, but less than six weeks after Comey testified that he had seen no facts to support Trump’s claim that he had been “wiretapped” by the Obama administration. That makes his firing look like political payback.

And the firing came one day after former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testified that Trump kept Gen. Michael T. Flynn on as national security adviser — receiving the most sensitive intelligence briefings — for 18 days after the administration was told that Flynn had been compromised by his ties to Russia and his lies to other administration officials. That — at best — looks like reckless conduct.

If there was wrongdoing by Trump or his associates, the public needs to know. And if it turns out to be something less sinister, the public needs to know that, too, in a way that is believable.

An investigation done by obscure FBI officials who just watched their boss get fired, reporting to a deputy attorney general appointed by one of the probe’s targets, is not going to do that.

Collins should join those demanding an independent inquiry led by an independent counsel, to undo the “profound lack of trust” that is poisoning our politics.

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