Maine Sen. Angus King is under consideration to become director of national intelligence in President-elect Joe Biden’s administration.

Politico first reported late Friday afternoon that King, a former Maine governor serving his second term in the U.S. Senate as an independent, is among several contenders to serve as Biden’s top intelligence chief. King currently serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which oversees the nation’s intelligence community and receives frequent, classified briefings on national security threats.

A representative from King’s office confirmed Friday evening that he is under consideration for the post, which is effectively the head of 17 U.S. intelligence agencies and the principal adviser to the president on intelligence issues.

“Senator King is focused on being a United States Senator, which means meeting the needs of Maine people during the coronavirus pandemic – whether that be expanding access to healthcare, passing long-overdue relief legislation to help anxious families and struggling small businesses, and providing much-needed aid to the nation’s states and localities,” spokesman Matthew Felling said in a statement.

“He has spent the last eight years advocating for a depoliticized, independent intelligence community that provides decision-makers with unbiased facts so they can confront the national security challenges facing America, and he appreciates the acknowledgement of his leadership in this conversation,” Felling said.

If King, 76, were tapped by Biden for the position and approved by the Senate, it would fall to Maine Gov. Janet Mills to “appoint a qualified person to fill the vacancy until that person’s successor is elected.” A primary would then be held during the next “regular primary election,” presumably in 2022, and then the official successor would be elected that fall to fill the remaining two years of the term.


A Democrat, Mills would have broad discretion to fill the seat but seems likely select a Democrat given the fragile balance of power in the Senate. With the help of Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ victory last week, Republicans currently hold a 50-48 majority over Democrats when including King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. But both of Georgia’s Senate seats currently held by Republicans are headed for runoff elections.

Created by Congress after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the director of national intelligence oversees the country’s 17 intelligence agencies. The director is responsible for ensuring that “timely and objective national intelligence is provided to the president, the heads of departments and agencies of the executive branch, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior military commanders, and the Congress.”

Most of the 10 official or acting directors had senior military, foreign service or intelligence experience before taking over the role. But President Trump selected members of Congress, including current director John Ratcliffe, to serve as director of national intelligence. News reports have listed several former intelligence or national security officials under Trump or President Barack Obama as possible contenders for the post in a Biden administration.

King served two terms as Maine’s governor before running for the Senate in 2012 to fill the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe. His appointment to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2013 elevated his national profile as a freshman senator, and he is a frequent guest on national television news programs to discuss non-classified intelligence issues.

Collins also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, giving Maine a disproportionate two seats on the 15-person panel.

King has been a vocal critic of Trump’s handling of intelligence matters, as well as some of the actions of the president’s directors of national intelligence. Trump has openly questioned numerous intelligence community findings – including the broad consensus that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump – and King has frequently accused the president of politicizing the intelligence community.


In April, for instance, King accused Trump of potentially stifling honest assessments from the intelligence community – and thereby putting the country at risk – by firing then-Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson. Trump acknowledged dismissing Atkinson because the inspector general had insisted on informing Congress about the whistleblower complaint alleging the president tried to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden’s son.

The substance of that complaint as well as how it was initially handled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence helped spark the House impeachment inquiry against Trump.

“The dismissal of Michael Atkinson is harmful not only because of the removal of one man’s work, but the message it sends to everyone in the Intelligence Community who are trying to fulfill the agency’s goals: to seek the truth and speak the truth,” King said at the time. “When speaking the truth leads to potential retribution, we know less and are at increased risk; the world we live in is darker and more dangerous. President Trump is taking these actions to protect himself – but in the process, he risks making the entire country less safe.”

King also strongly criticized Ratcliffe, the current director of national intelligence, in August for stopping personally briefing members of Congress on election security issues and providing written updates instead. King called the decision “an outrage, full stop” given the threat faced by disinformation campaigns waged against the U.S. by other nations during the election.

King voted against Ratcliffe’s nomination, along with all Senate Democrats, during a May 2020 roll call vote. During hearings on the nominee, King pressed Ratcliffe on whether he would provide fact-based, non-political advice even when Trump might not want to hear it.

“Every executive wants to hear what they want to hear, every person that works for that executive wants to tell the boss what they want to hear,” King said during the May confirmation hearing. “I would suggest, and I’ll close with this: if you give information to the president that isn’t accurate, that isn’t unvarnished, that is an act of disloyalty to the president, let alone to the Constitution.”


If King were to vacate his seat, it would likely spark a jockeying match among potential successors hoping to win Mills’ support. Maine voters just re-elected Collins to a fifth, six-year term following a bruising, intensely negative campaign that drew national attention and record-smashing spending levels, much of it from out-of-state groups or donors hoping to tilt the Senate Democratic or keep it in Republican hands.

Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat, waged a roughly 18-month campaign for Collins’ seat but only won 42 percent of the vote. But there was a long list of prominent Democrats who had mulled running against Collins before Gideon joined the race with the endorsement of the national party.

Meanwhile, several progressive groups are lobbying for Biden to nominate Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, as his agriculture secretary. Pingree has owned and operated organic farms and is heavily involved in agricultural and food policy issues through her positions on the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.

Bloomberg also listed Pingree as a “long shot” for the nomination.

Unlike in Senate vacancies, Mills would issue a proclamation declaring a vacancy if Pingree were to leave office. Special primary elections would then be held followed by a general election, although the timing of those elections would depend on when the seat becomes vacant. Maine law states that if Congress is in session, the elections “must he held as soon as reasonably possible,” but could be held prior to the next Congress if the House was not in session.

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