Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is joining 19 other state attorneys general in calling for a special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible ties to President Trump’s campaign.

The letter was initiated by Maura Healey, attorney general of Massachusetts, and is addressed to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He is overseeing the Department of Justice’s investigation of Russian election meddling because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation after he falsely told his Senate confirmation panel that he had no contact with Russian officials in the run-up to the election.

The letter begins by decrying Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director this week as a “violation of public trust.” A letter from Rosenstein to Trump, outlining supposed missteps by Comey, has been cited by the White House as one of the reasons justifying the dismissal of the FBI’s top official.

The letter from the attorneys general goes on to say that the country’s democratic system could be damaged by “any attempts by the administration to derail and delegitimize the investigation” into possible Russian meddling.

“The residents of our states and the American people deserve a thorough investigation that makes clear the extent of Russian meddling, any collusion by Trump campaign officials, and any coverup,” the letter says. “Only the appointment of an independent special counsel … can begin to restore public confidence.”

Trump and Republican lawmakers have resisted calls for a special counsel. The FBI and two congressional committees also are investigating the matter.

The attorney generals who signed the letter generally come from Democratic-leaning states. In New England, in addition to Healey and Mills, the letter has been signed by the attorneys general of Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Mills said she signed the letter because of concerns that firing Comey is part of an attempt to influence the investigation into Russian election tampering, which she said shouldn’t be tolerated.

“There is growing support for an independent prosecutor to take over that investigation without the risk of meddling from any political figure (and) the attorney generals’ letter is part of that growing chorus of concern,” Mills said.

Mills has signed on to similar letters on a range of issues, including one that condemned Trump’s travel ban executive order, another asking Trump and congressional Republicans to not shortchange drug treatment programs and one urging then-President-elect Trump to retain President Obama’s clean power law.

The letters put Mills in direct opposition to Gov. Paul LePage, an avid Trump supporter. Last week, LePage sued Mills, saying her refusal to represent LePage when he signs onto lawsuits in other states represents “an abuse of power.” In a statement LePage released when the suit was filed, he noted that Mills has “publicly denounced” court cases that he wants to join and refuses to provide legal representation in those cases.

Mills replied by saying that her office has never refused a LePage request to hire outside law firms to represent the governor’s office in legal matters.

LePage’s office didn’t respond to an email seeking comment about the letter calling a special counsel.

Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

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