Although President Trump called a special prosecutor’s probe “a total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest” in a tweet Monday morning, Maine Democrats vying for a seat in Congress this year uniformly back Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

“Mueller must be allowed to finish the investigation for the sake of our democracy,” said Jonathan Fulford, a Monroe builder who is among the Democrats who hope to unseat two-term U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican from Maine’s 2nd District.

If necessary, Congress “needs to step in and protect the integrity of the investigation,” said state Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston, who also is vying for the chance to take on Poliquin in the general election. He said the probe “needs to be taken very, very seriously” by everyone and not turned into something partisan.

Poliquin said last fall it is important that people have faith in the investigation and to let it play out, an assertion his office reiterated Monday.

After several days of strongly worded statements by Trump on Twitter attacking Mueller and his prosecutorial team, there is growing speculation in political circles that the president might act to have the special counsel fired. He has fired others after first castigating them online.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Zak Ringelstein, a Portland educator, said that “firing Robert Mueller would be an abuse of presidential power and would set off a constitutional crisis that should trigger immediate impeachment proceedings.”

The incumbent whom Ringelstein hopes to replace, first-term independent U.S. Sen. Angus King, also said that if the president tries to terminate the investigation prematurely, “it will be a true constitutional crisis.”

King told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that Mueller is “as straight an arrow as there is in America. He’s a former Marine. He’s a prosecutor. I think he’s a Republican. He was – when he was appointed, everybody said, hooray, this is the right guy.”

Now that he is doing his job – already bringing in several guilty pleas and levying 19 felony charges – the administration keeps “trying to undercut” the probe, King said. “This is a serious investigation,” he said, and should not be cut short.

Craig Olson, an Islesboro bookstore owner who is in the race for Poliquin’s seat, said that if Trump “truly believes the elections were free of interference he has nothing to lose by allowing Special Counsel Mueller to complete his investigation.”

“If he fires Special Counsel Mueller, then one must wonder what information or whom he is trying to protect,” Olson said.

Olson said if the president fires Mueller, “then Congress must order another investigation of the Trump administration bringing the administration that much closer to impeachment proceedings.”

Another 2nd District hopeful, Democrat Lucas St. Clair, said Mueller “should be allowed to finish his work and to follow the evidence where it may lead without political interference.”

He said it is critical that Congress “fulfill its responsibility to hold the president accountable as a co-equal branch of government. If the president takes action to stop the investigation, including firing Mueller, Congress must act. Our country is based on the rule of law, and no person – not even the president – is above the law.”

“If the president attempts to fire Mueller, than it will be up to Congress to ensure that his investigation continues and that he can continue his work,” St. Clair said, adding that history will judge the House poorly if it allows Trump “to circumvent the law and end Mueller’s investigation.”

Ringelstein said that Trump “is a clear and present danger to the rule of law in America and we must not take the praise he heaps on dictators lightly.”

“If I were in office today,” he said, “I would socialize with enough senators – both Democratic and Republican – to guarantee we have the two-thirds requirement to remove this aspiring tyrant from the presidency and ensure a peaceful transition.”

Last fall, Poliquin said it “is important this work remains bipartisan to ensure the American people have confidence in any conclusion.”

“Any indictments could be concerning, but we must let the court process work as it relates to their specific findings,” Poliquin said at the time.

Brendan Conley, his spokesman, said Monday that Poliquin’s position hasn’t changed. “He will thoroughly review any findings and conclusions from the independent investigations,” Conley said.

Golden said he does not fault Poliquin for largely steering clear of the issue. He said the Republican does not serve on the Intelligence Committee and is not privy to some of the information that King, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and others may have seen.

He said he understands why people want their congressman to speak out, but sometimes it is important to show “responsible leadership” that avoids contributing to the partisanship surrounding difficult issues.

Independent congressional candidate Tiffany Bond said that “investigations should have party-neutral treatment.”

“I do not think it is appropriate for the subject of any investigation to be making public comments related to the matters under review until there is a natural conclusion driven by case facts, and free from any outside influence,” Bond said. “It is appropriate to have special counsel provisions codified in law that protect our democracy. It appears our Congress has lost its way on their duties and responsibility to constituents.”

Steve Collins can be contacted at:

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