Sen. Angus King of Maine said Tuesday that if President Trump did ask former FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation of the president’s former national security adviser, it could constitute obstruction of justice.

King, an independent who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee with Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, spent several minutes speaking with CNN host Wolf Blitzer after The New York Times broke a story about a memo that people familiar with the matter say Comey wrote after a meeting in February with Trump in the Oval Office. The two discussed former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had resigned a day earlier.

Describing former FBI Director James Comey, Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King told CNN: “He’s a by-the-book guy and one of the straightest shooters I’ve ever encountered.”

King later spoke with several Maine news outlets about the story, and the other members of Maine’s congressional delegation reacted with statements.

In the memo, Comey reportedly wrote that Trump told him, “I hope you can see your way to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” referring to the Flynn investigation.

“If it’s true and it’s confirmed, we are getting close to obstruction of justice,” King said. “This is very serious stuff.”

“Are we getting closer and closer to another impeachment process?” Blitzer asked.

“Yes, reluctantly, Wolf, I have to say because obstruction of justice is such a serious offense,” King replied. “And I say that with sadness and reluctance. This is not something I’ve advocated for and the word has not passed my lips in this whole tumultuous three or four months. But if indeed the president tried to tell the director of the FBI, who worked for him, that he should drop an investigation, whether it was Michael Flynn or had nothing to do with politics or the election, that’s a very serious matter.”

The White House has denied that Trump made the request to Comey.

Collins’ office said in a statement Tuesday night that the Times story raises serious concerns.

“Senator Collins believes the allegations made in the New York Times are serious and warrant further investigation,” said Collins’ spokeswoman Annie Clark. “In order to assess these allegations it is going to be necessary to see the actual memo and to hear from Mr. Comey directly so that he can give context to the conversation.”

Maine’s Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-2nd District, also said the allegations require further investigation.

“These allegations, if substantiated, raise grave concerns,” Poliquin said in a statement. “It is incredibly important our investigative agencies like the FBI have the impartiality to conduct their business independently and always in the best interest of our Nation. I look forward to the House Oversight Committee’s review of the matter and specifically of the memo that’s been reported by media outlets, to gain clarity on the situation.”

A spokeswoman for Maine’s Republican Sen. Susan Collins said “In order to assess these allegations it is going to be necessary to see the actual memo and to hear from Mr. Comey directly.”

Maine’s Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, said the allegations raise further questions about the administration’s potential ties to Russia.

“Every day we learn more disturbing details about how the President has interfered in the investigation of his ties to Russia,” Pingree said in a statement. “Tonight’s New York Times report begs more questions and causes Americans to feel less safe and lose faith in the institutions which uphold our Democracy.”

King told Maine reporters in a conference call that he has not heard from Comey directly on whether he wrote the memo, and that its existence must first be confirmed.

“Clearly, we need to verify that it was his recollection of that meeting,” King said. “My position is, this is an extremely serious matter and we’ve got to get to the bottom of it.”

But King also said that documenting such a meeting is something he believes Comey would do.

“He’s a by-the-book guy and one of the straightest shooters I’ve ever encountered,” King told CNN.

King said it is imperative that Congress verify what was said during the meeting between Trump and Comey and that if recordings of conversations between the two exist, as the president has implied, then they must be turned over to Congress.

King told Maine reporters that Comey is scheduled to testify before Congress “in the near future,” but was uncertain whether he would appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee or the Senate Judiciary Committee. King said he will attend the Judiciary Committee hearing if Comey appears.

Reporters also asked King whether the president’s actions, if the Times story can be verified, represent an obstruction of justice and an impeachable offense.

“It’s a hypothetical and I’m not going to answer that,” King said.

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

[email protected]

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