Maine’s congressional delegation reacted along partisan lines to the selection of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to lead the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 election.

Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin, both Republicans, heaped praise on Mueller, who led the FBI for 12 years after being appointed by President George W. Bush days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, and Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree praised the appointment of a special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, but cautioned that Mueller must be up to the task of leading an independent investigation.

“The deputy attorney general made an excellent choice in selecting Mueller to serve as special counsel. He has sterling credentials and is above reproach,” Collins said in a statement. “Because of his experience leading the FBI for more than a decade, Mr. Mueller has established relationships with FBI agents and will be able to move forward quickly. He is well respected on both sides of the aisle and will inspire public confidence in the investigation.”

Collins, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the committee will continue its investigation into Russia’s attempts to influence the election.

King, who also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the appointment of a special counsel an “encouraging step forward,” but said Mueller must remain completely impartial in order for his investigation to succeed.

“Mr. Mueller now has before him a serious and solemn charge, which will require him to operate in an independent manner, beholden to nothing but the facts, wherever they may lead,” King said.

Though Pingree was reassured by the appointment of a special counsel, she still called for an independent commission to investigate possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

“It’s reassuring to see the Department of Justice respond to the crisis embroiling the investigation into President Trump’s Russian ties,” she said in a statement. “However, in order to have full confidence in the investigation, we need an independent commission that can not be dismissed by the president.”

Poliquin said Mueller’s experience will be an asset to the investigation.

“I believe the appointment of a special counsel, especially a person with such a proven record of professionalism like former FBI Director Robert Mueller, will be very helpful in clarifying much of the different accounts being reported by media outlets and other groups,” Poliquin said. “Let’s let the facts lead us where they will.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]