Maine’s two U.S. senators expressed contrasting reactions on Tuesday to the FBI’s search for top secret documents at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

Sen. Angus King, a two-term independent, questions why Trump had documents at his home that even some CIA agents aren’t allowed to read. Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican and occasional Trump critic, says there are legitimate questions about the justification for the search, and the timing of it. Both King and Collins serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Sen. Angus King meets with the editorial board and reporters of the Portland Press Herald on Tuesday in South Portland. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

While he didn’t name anyone specifically, King says it’s disturbing that his Republican colleagues haven’t condemned the anti-FBI rhetoric and violent conspiracy theories that have sprung up in the wake of the search.

Collins and King discussed the issue with FBI Director Christopher Wray and regional and local FBI officials in Portland on Tuesday, Collins’ office said in an email Tuesday night. During the meeting, they discussed this issue and a number of others, including drug trafficking and other criminal and national security threats facing communities in Maine.

“I haven’t followed what every member of leadership has said, I have seen what Leader McConnell has said in the Senate,” Collins said during an interview following a ceremony in Portland Tuesday to celebrate the Casco Bay Lines Terminal expansion. “He reserved judgment on a lot of issues and I think, that as I have said, regardless of whether one agrees with what has happened or not, there’s simply no excuse for threats against our law enforcement (officers), including the FBI.”

King told the Portland Press Herald editorial board in a wide-ranging, 45-minute newsroom interview in South Portland that he was disturbed by how many citizens and politicians immediately jumped to “this is a conspiracy, it’s Biden, it’s the White House, we’re going to defend, civil war.”


“It’s disturbing that not enough Republican leaders called it out,” King said. “They either were quiet or further fomented.” King wouldn’t specify which Republican leaders had disappointed him. A spokesman said that he did not want to inflame political divisions any further by calling out lawmakers by name.

But King acknowledged the political price to be paid by Republicans who speak out against Trump. He referred to Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who criticized Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The three-term Republican lost her primary Tuesday against a Trump-backed opponent.

“We’re in this place where people are very leery of crossing Donald Trump and we’re going to see today what happens in Wyoming, about the fact that it’s not an idle fear,” King said Tuesday morning, before the outcome was known. “It’s very worrisome. The division in the country is nothing like I’ve ever seen.”

Sen. Susan Collins answers questions from the media about the FBI raid at former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate after speaking at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of renovations of the Casco Bay Lines terminal building on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

When news of the Mar-a-Lago search broke last week, Collins, called it “shocking” and “unprecedented,” but said she needed to know more before concluding whether the search was justified.

Collins and Trump have had a complicated relationship. She called him unfit for office after he won the Republican nomination in 2016. He called her atrocious. She was a key vote in getting Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Collins later voted to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Collins said she was “appalled” by the threats of violence aimed at the rank-and-file members of the FBI and Department of Justice when asked if Republicans should be more vocal in defending the agencies.


“I have been very vocal in my support of law enforcement, period,” Collins said. “There is simply no justification for violence or threats of violence under any circumstances, whether one agrees with the way the FBI and the Department of Justice proceeded in this case, or not.”

King and Collins say they and fellow Intelligence Committee members want to review the confidential documents recovered in the search. Search records released this week reveal that authorities seized 11 boxes of documents, ranging from committee-sensitive papers to top secret information.

The most troubling Mar-a-Lago discovery for King was the logged discovery of one box of documents labeled TS/SCI, or Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information. A person must have the highest security clearance to even read this information, he said. If revealed, it could place lives at risk.

For example, Intelligence Committee staff is cleared to review secret material, King said. But before the committee can discuss TS/SCI material, about half the people in the committee room have to leave, King said. Even senators are on a read-only basis.

Collins said there are “legitimate questions” about the search and its timing that need to be answered. The Intelligence Committee, with a track record of handling highly classified information, sent a letter to the Department of Justice on Sunday asking to review the affidavits and recovered documents within 10 days, Collins said.

“There are a lot of rumors floating around,” Collins said. “We need to have more transparency.”

King said he also wants to know why Trump wanted to take these particular White House records. He said they don’t qualify as a typical keepsake of elected office, like a portrait with the Queen of England, the putter used to play golf in the Oval Office or a letter from North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un.

Both senators said it was too early, and too little is still known, to make a judgment on the search.

“Was there some trigger?” Collins asked. “We don’t know why there was 18 months that elapsed before the search was undertaken if, in fact, these are highly sensitive classified documents – that’s a question that needs to be answered.”

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