Sen. Susan Collins says it’s vital that she, Sen. Angus King and the other members of a Senate committee investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign hear from fired FBI Director James Comey and see his memos because “the stories are getting ahead of the facts.”

Collins, a Maine Republican, made the remarks on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on Wednesday. The interview aired hours before the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Comey to testify and for the FBI to turn over any memos he had written about a meeting he had with President Trump in which the president is reported to have asked him to stop his probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“Right now the stories are getting ahead of the facts,” Collins said. “It’s important that we get all of the documents, including the memo and any other memos that Director Comey wrote. But it’s also important that we hear direct testimony from him that would describe the context, the tone of voice the president used and the actual words that were said.”

The New York Times reported Tuesday that Comey had written a memo about the incident, in which Trump also urged the FBI director to arrest journalists reporting on leaked material. The report – coming on the heels of revelations that the president provided confidential intelligence information to Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting last week – has shaken even some of the administration’s supporters in Congress.

Collins and King both sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and contacts and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.

Collins told NPR it was too soon to tell whether the president’s actions amounted to obstruction of justice. “That’s why it’s so important that we get the documents that we need and that we have Mr. Comey come in and testify,” she said. “If it were an actual effort to shut down the investigation or otherwise interfere with that, that obviously is very serious and that’s why it is important that this be vigorously but fairly pursued.”


Collins’ remarks also presaged the Department of Justice’s move later in the day to appoint former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the federal investigation into allegations Russia and Trump’s campaign collaborated to influence the 2016 presidential election.

“I believe that there are sufficient allegations out there, regretfully many of them from anonymous sources, that the Justice Department should take a look at this,” Collins said in the morning.

After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Mueller’s appointment Wednesday evening, Collins released a statement saying he had made “an excellent choice.” Mueller, she said “has sterling credentials and is above reproach.”

“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,” she added. “He is well respected on both sides of the aisle and will inspire public confidence in the investigation.”


NPR also asked Collins about her change of position since her initial statement on the Comey firing May 9, when she defended Trump’s actions and accepted the president’s now discarded explanation that the director had been fired for his actions in July 2016 regarding a probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails. “Any suggestion that today’s announcement is somehow an effort to stop the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s attempt to influence the election last fall is misplaced,” she said in that statement.


On NPR, Collins responded by saying her statement was misinterpreted. “I’m going to correct you,” she told the interviewer. “What I said was, ‘Anyone who felt that firing James Comey was going to shut down the Russian investigation was mistaken.'” When asked whether she still thought the president had fired Comey for his handling of the Clinton investigation, Collins said: “I don’t know. That’s what we need to find out. And that is important that we find out. But my point is – and I said at the time – is that the investigation into the presidential election should and could continue and was continuing.”

Collins’ office did not respond to a request asking whether the initial statement had been written in error or, if not, what had changed the senator’s mind after it was released.

Trump has himself discarded his original explanation for the Comey firing, telling NBC’s Lester Holt last week that when he decided to “just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”

On Tuesday, King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that if Trump did indeed ask Comey to lay off parts of his investigation, “we are getting close to obstruction of justice.” Blitzer then asked whether “we are getting closer and closer” to impeachment proceedings.

“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.”

The Washington Post reported Wednesday afternoon that Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, expects Comey to testify before the committee early next week and that he expects the FBI to respond to his request for documents within 72 hours.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at:

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