Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks to reporters after a tour of Mölnlycke Health Care’s manufacturing facility at Brunswick Landing. NATHAN STROUT / THE TIMES RECORD


Republican Sen. Susan Collins confirmed that she is still undecided on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Friday.

Speaking at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station, Maine’s senior senator said that she couldn’t make a decision until after she meets with Kavanaugh one-on-one next week and hears his responses at his confirmation hearing.

“I have been studying very hard since his nomination to make sure that I’m well prepared for that. I’ve had 15 attorneys from the Congressional Research Service, who are independent nonpartisan lawyers, who have been coming in and briefing me every other day for a number of hours to talk about the issues,” said Collins, speaking at a brief press conference. “Until I’ve had that opportunity to question the judge personally on a lot of important issues and then to observe his hearing, I will refrain from making a decision.”

Take on Trump feuds

Collins declined to comment on the various allegations made by former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman in a new book, including her unsubstantiated claim that there is a tape of the president using a racial slur, except to say that their statements have been unseemly. The president lashed out against his former aide earlier this week, calling her a “lowlife” and a “dog.”

“I don’t know what to make of the dispute between the president and his former protege,” said Collins. “I think it’s unseemly on both their parts, and that’s one that I’m just gonna stay out of. I think that our country has far more important issues that the president should be focused on and I think it was also inappropriate for her to write her book.”

Collins took issue with Trump’s retaliations against those who take public stands against him.

“It is disturbing that the president appears to seek to retaliate against those who criticize him. Criticism comes with the job for public officials, and sometimes it’s not fair. It’s often not pleasant, but it’s part of our system,” she said.

Specifically, Collins took issue with the president’s decision to revoke former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance, although she criticized Brennan’s recent behavior as well.

“Now let me make clear that I do believe that John Brennan has been far too political in his comments as a recently retired CIA director. That is not the way retired intelligence officers usually react,” said Collins. “But nevertheless, the standard for revoking a security clearance is usually that the person has disclosed some classified or highly sensitive information, and in this case I’m not aware that Mr. Brennan has done so.”

Bath Iron Works funding

When asked about the possibility of Congress appropriating funding for an additional destroyer in 2020, Collins said she was hopeful. Bath Iron Works is competing for a multi-year contract to build Arleigh Burke-class destroyers over the next five years. While the current plan calls for just two of those destroyers in 2020, Collins has pushed to find funding for a third destroyer that year which could potentially be built at Bath Iron Works.

“I’m very hopeful. The Navy has done a new assessment of how many ships are needed and it is far higher than the number that we have in the fleet currently,” said Collins. “In addition, if you look at the proliferation of threats all over the world, the Navy is the branch that can project power, that can go anywhere and not be denied access except in territorial waters.”

“Right now we’re in the midst of a competition for a multi-year contract for the DDG 51 destroyers and I’m hopeful that Bath Iron Works will do well,” she added. “They certainly build the highest quality ships, the issue is cost.”

Brunswick tour

Collins’ comments came following a tour of Mölnlycke Health Care’s manufacturing facility Friday morning at Brunswick Landing. The company manufactures wound care products, many of which are used to prevent pressure ulcers.

“60,000 people a year die from pressure ulcers, which is not widely known. We manufacture dressings in this factory that if you had a surgery can prevent 88 percent of pressure ulcers from occurring,” said Director of US Manufacturing Jim Deter. “To put it in comparison, 64,000 people died from opioid addiction. 60,000 died by pressure ulcers.”

Detert said it was a great experience to have Collins meet their employees and tour the facility, which produces roughly 40 million dressings a year.

“Sen. Collins is very interested in what we’re doing just because of the sheer number of people affected,” said Detert. “She understands the problem and it was great for her to see (our facility). It was just great to let her meet our people and show how proud we are to be here.”

“Maine is the oldest state in the nation by average age. As the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, I know the importance of Molnlycke’s advancements in wound care to vulnerable populations recovering from surgery or injury,” said Collins in a statement. “Molnlycke’s cutting-edge Brunswick factory is proof that Maine’s manufacturing tradition is alive, well, and growing. It was a pleasure to visit this facility and speak with many of the Mainers who work here.”

Disclosure: Times Record reporter Nathan Strout served as an intern in Collins’ Portland office in 2013.

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