U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday that President Trump was right in speaking first to his attorney regarding his desire to have special counsel Robert S. Mueller III fired last summer.

Collins, appearing on two news talk shows, was asked to comment on reports last week that Trump had ordered White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller in June but backed off when McGahn threatened to quit rather than carry out the order.

Asked by host Nancy Cordes on CBS’s “Face the Nation” whether Trump’s actions sounded like obstruction of justice, Collins said the president was angry and frustrated when he pushed for Mueller’s dismissal but “he did what he should have done, which is talk to his lawyer.”

“Here it is, seven months later, the White House counsel is still there and Mr. Mueller is proceeding with a very aggressive and thorough investigation,” she said.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Collins told host Jake Tapper that it’s important to note that Trump has no authority to fire Mueller, who is investigating the Trump campaign for possible collusion with the Russians in the 2016 presidential election, and the president for possible obstruction of the investigation.

Collins said only Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed the special counsel, is empowered to fire Mueller. And if Trump fired Rosenstein that would be “a terrible mistake,” she said, citing President Richard Nixon and his efforts to stop the Watergate investigation by having special prosecutor Archibald Cox fired in October 1973.

“That didn’t end very well,” Collins said.

Maine’s Republican senator has been a frequent guest on TV talk shows in the past year as she came under the spotlight as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian influence in the 2016 election. She also has played pivotal roles in the debates over the Affordable Care Act and the tax reform bill, and in seeking a bipartisan solution to the government shutdown last week and on looming immigration legislation. On Sunday, she was questioned about the Russian investigation, the immigration debate and other current issues.

Asked by Tapper if she now saw a need for legislation that would prevent Mueller from being fired, a move Collins said was unnecessary in December, she answered, “It certainly would not hurt to put that additional safeguard in place in view of the latest stories.”

Collins said the secret memo written by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee alleging abuses by the FBI in its Russian investigation should not be released. Some Republicans have been pushing for it to be made public. She said she is concerned that its release could compromise classified information, and that the investigation into the matter by the inspector general is sufficient.

“I have a lot of confidence in the FBI. They are the nation’s premier law enforcement agency,” she said.

On immigration, Collins told Cordes of CBS that she and a group of 25 bipartisan senators are working on recommendations that would protect people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program from deportation while creating a path to citizenship and tightening border security through technology rather than by Trump’s proposed wall. She said she is optimistic both measures will be enacted.

Collins said other Trump proposals for immigration change, including a crackdown on illegal immigrants and legal immigration for extended family members, are too complicated to tackle at this point.

She said she was pleased that Republican National Committee finance chairman Steve Wynn promptly stepped down from his role amid allegations of sexual harassment. Republicans who have unspent money from Wynn should return it, Collins said.

“I am pleased to say I have never received any money from Mr. Wynn, so I have no money to return,” she said.

 

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