Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asks a question during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. AP WIREPHOTO

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, asks a question during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. AP WIREPHOTO

PORTLAND — Angus King discussing King Henry II and Thomas Becket during a congressional hearing? That comes as little surprise to observers of the independent former governor of Maine.

King, the state’s mustachioed senator who’s a history buff, turned his attention to medieval times after delivering a quip about former FBI Director James Comey breaking a date with his wife to have dinner with President Donald Trump, calling it “one of the all-time greatest excuses.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday in Washington provided an opportunity for senators to hear directly from Comey, who says Trump fired him for refusing to stop an investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election and possible Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

A day before Comey’s testimony, King captured attention for a barb aimed at the Natural Security Agency director who said he didn’t feel it would be appropriate to answer questions about his conversations with the president.

“What you ‘feel’ isn’t relevant, admiral,” the senator said.

In Maine, King is well-known as a popular folksy former two-term governor.

On the national stage, King isn’t as well-known as Maine’s other senator, Republican Susan Collins, so his performance at the hearing that was carried live on several TV networks likely lifted his national profile, said Mark Brewer, political science professor at the University of Maine.

King loves history, so the references to the murder of the archbishop described by King Henry as “the meddlesome priest” came across naturally.

When King announced his candidacy for Senate in 2012, he did so at the end of a Bowdoin College lecture about leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Collins had her moment in the spotlight as well. Her questioning elicited Comey’s acknowledgement that he provided notes about his face-to-face meetings with Trump to a Columbia University professor who provided them to the New York Times.

Collins said Friday she was surprised by the answer. “I was wondering how those memos got to the press. I had assumed that it might have been a high-ranking FBI official, but I never guessed that it was Mr. Comey himself who had leaked the memo,” she told CNN.


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